"Queremos un País donde nuestros hijos e hijas crezcan respirando aire puro, libre de contaminantes. No a las cenizas tóxicas". MADRES POR PUERTO RICO, Herminio Rodríguez, fotógrafo
Coal ash – the waste material left after coal is burned – contains arsenic, mercury, lead, and over a dozen other heavy metals, many of them toxic. And disposal of the growing mounds of coal ash is creating grave risks to human health.
We're not talking about a little bit of ash, we're talking mountains of Toxic Chemicals
The problem of environmental destruction in Puerto Rico is not new, but the story of how the government of Puerto Rico sold out our natural environment, Puerto Ricos greatest resource, is elegantly explained in this damning and well documented report: http://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2016/03/puerto-rico-government-and-epa-agree-to-amend-aes-contract-behind-closed-doors/
"It dealt with an amendment in the contract made between the multinational company and PREPA: a clause that prohibited the company from disposing its waste derived from the burning of the coal on any part of the island.
A few days later, on July 17, 2015, the agreement was completed. Once signed by Carlos Castro Montalvo, the former Interim Director of PREPA, the rules of the game changed. This action allowed for the disposal of millions of tons of toxic waste in garbage landfills on the island and paved the way for AES to save millions of dollars because it would not be forced to export the coal ashes as it had promised PREPA on October 11, 1994."
"AES also agreed in the EIS that it would not deposit the ashes or its derivatives as “solid waste products in the landfills of Puerto Rico.”
In a lawsuit brought on by ecologists groups, the now deceased Puerto Rico Supreme Court Judge, Jaime Fuster Berlingeri, decided in favor of the corporation and stated on June 29, 1998 that “neither the ashes or its derivatives would be deposited as solid waste in the landfills in Puerto Rico.”
Now, all these guarantees became null and void."
AES has dumped coal ashes in multiple towns across the island including but not limited to Peñuelas, Guayama, Arroyo, Humaco, and Salinas. The people living at each location have risen up in opposition to the dumping, but the overwhelming police presence pushed the residents out of the way to force the dumping of toxic ash in their community.
This is not the first time AES has been called out for blatant environmental destruction. In 2007 AES agreed to "pay $6 million to settle a lawsuit in which the Dominican Republic accused the company of illegally dumping industrial waste that destroyed beaches and sickened citizens.".
Nor is it the first company to have disastrous consequences of dumping coal ash. The toxic waste that is created from burning coal has poisoned many stateside communities: