- Thursday, 18 April 2019
- Published Date
- Written by Villalba Online
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Activists from Puerto Rico, together with representatives of the Puerto Rican community and organizations from the United States, protest against the company AES.
ARLINGTON, Virginia - Today, a representation of organizations and communities of Puerto Rico, organized collectively under the name of the Resistance Against the Burning of Coal and its Toxic Ashes (Resistencia RCC - in Spanish), together with members of the Puerto Rican community and other organizations in the United States, visited the city of Arlington, in the state of Virginia, to point out the humanitarian and health crisis that the company Applied Energy Systems (AES) has created in Puerto Rico due to the contamination and poisoning produced by its coal plant established in the town of Guayama since 2002.
In front of the building where the shareholder assembly of this company is held, the protesters requested the company stockholders to be aware of the damage it causes to thousands of people in the island. A situation very similar to that experienced by others in the United States, where AES itself or other companies, also sicken and kill children, youth and adults.
Recently, a study by the Environmental Integrity Project, supported by the organization Earthjustice of Washington DC, concluded that, of the 265 coal-fired power plants with monitoring data operating on US soil, 91% pollute groundwater with dangerous levels of contaminants toxic from coal ash, including arsenic, a known carcinogen, and lithium, which is associated with neurological damage, among other pollutants. One of these plants is AES in Puerto Rico.
AES denied for one full year that they were guilty of poisoning the groundwater in the area of their facilities in Guayama, where they keep an immense mountain of ashes, since 2010. But a few weeks ago, they had to accept that their ashes are causing such contamination. Due to this and their lack of transparency in not delivering required documentation, they were fined by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA - in Spanish).
Already in 2017, AES had been fined twice for endangering the safety of the residents nearby its facilities, by refusing to comply with two orders to cover the mountain of ashes before the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Likewise, they refused to pay the fines imposed by the government and the mountain of ashes is still uncovered.
Likewise, AES was fined by the EPA in 2012 when it was discovered that rainwater was dragging the ash away from its facilities to nearby wetlands.
Communities such as Miramar, Puente de Jobos and Santa Ana de Guayama, in Puerto Rico, are impacted daily by the coal-ashes dust carried by the wind to their homes, and obviously to their lungs. They have spent 17 years breathing the toxic chemicals that AES releases daily through its chimney. In fact, the AES is the second company in Puerto Rico that releases more toxic chemicals into the air, according to the EPA's Toxics Emissions Inventory (TRI).
In studies conducted by the School of Public Health of the University of Puerto Rico in 2016 and 2018, an increase in different critical conditions in the health of residents near the plant was demonstrated, among them, abortions, skin-rashes/urticaria, respiratory problems and cardiovascular. Similarly, incidences and deaths from cancer increase every day.
Photo: Members of Resistencia RCC protest against AES coal-burning plant in front of La Fortaleza, residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico
To make matters worse, AES spread over 2 million tons of toxic ash in 14 towns in Puerto Rico, between 2004 and 2011. Many of these places on aquifers, near rivers and streams, which are likely to be contaminated. Today, in several of these places the ashes are exposed and are breathed by residents daily.
“We demand the suspension of any negotiation by the government of Puerto Rico to give the AES additional contracts, the total removal of the mountain of toxic ash and coal that AES maintains in its plant in Puerto Rico, that all contaminated areas are monitored and cleaned up from the deposit of toxic ash, the removal of the ashes buried in our soils, that AES assumes its responsibility for the damage to the health of the people affected by its operations, the immediate closure of the coal plant with citizen participation in that process, and that these environmental killers leave our country”, expressed the activists in a press relief signed by Mabette Colón, Timmy Boyle and Aimeé Montoya.
“We battle in Peñuelas, Humacao and Guayama against AES, their trucks and the repression of the government; we manifest ourselves in many towns and in front of the agencies; Today we come to protest at the doors of the company AES and its shareholders. And we announce to AES that we will continue fighting to protect our families, homes, and country ... this struggle continues at all costs.”
Some of the organizations that support this activity are: A Call for Action and the New York Boricua Independence Front, Sierra Club and Earthjustice of Washignton DC, CT Puerto Rican Agenda and the Lutheran Church of Hope and Annandale of Virginia.
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