Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and 15 of her Senate colleagues today called on President Trump to step up disaster recovery efforts on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra after the islands were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA.), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) also joined the letter to President Trump.
Given the remoteness of the islands and reports that residents have been “without running water, power, gasoline or communications for more than a week,” the Senators wrote to President Trump to call for sufficient aid and relief personnel to be sent to the islands as soon as possible.
“The residents of Vieques and Culebra are U.S. citizens, and no fellow citizen should be left ‘clamoring for help,'” the Senators wrote. “They need help now, and we urge that you provide them with sufficient aid and assistance without further delay.”
The Senators also expressed concern about the superfund site on Vieques and the potential health risks posed by the heavy metals and toxic chemicals left on the island after decades of military exercises by the U.S. Navy. “We share the concern of residents that the hazardous waste may further contaminate the island and water supplies, and ultimately threaten the health of local residents,” the Senators wrote. “Additionally, the superfund site contains unexploded bombs and live ammunition that could be washed into the sea, posing long-term health and safety risks.”
Last week, Senator Gillibrand spoke on the floor of the Senate and joined her colleagues to urge President Trump to take immediate action in response to the crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She also wrote to Secretary Perdue with several Senate colleagues requesting that he make all necessary resources available to swiftly provide Puerto Rico with much-needed food aid through the SNAP program.
The full text of the letter can be found here.