As Puerto Ricans Drink Polluted Water, Trump Says FEMA Won't Stay ‘Forever’

October 12, 2017

President Trump again criticized hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico Thursday, saying the government can't keep federal aid there "forever."

His comments come as the EPA says desperate Puerto Ricans are reportedly obtaining drinking water from hazardous "Superfund" sites.

Three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, Puerto Rico, home to 3.4 million Americans, is still reeling. Roughly 60 percent of its residents don’t have clean water and 85 percent are still without electricity. The death toll stands at 45 but is expected to rise, officials say. More than 100 people are still missing.

(MORE: Awful Situation Plays Out in Puerto Rico After Maria)

The Environmental Protection Agency and partners examine the drinking water system that isn't run by the government's water and sewer services in Cañabón, Puerto Rico, following the storm.

On Wednesday, the EPA warned residents that drinking from the Superfund sites – bodies of water that have been contaminated by hazardous waste – may be "dangerous to people’s health."

The agency also said raw sewage continues to be a problem until repairs can be made and power is restored.

"Water contaminated with livestock waste, human sewage, chemicals and other contaminants can lead to illness when used for drinking, bathing and other hygiene activities," officials wrote in a press release.

After earlier accusing Puerto Rican officials of wanting "everything to be done for them," the president lashed the U.S. territory in a series of tweets Thursday as the House prepared to vote on a $36.5 million disaster relief bill, which includes help for Puerto Rico. The bill was passed by the House on Thursday afternoon, and will now go to the Senate.

Trump said there is a "total lack of accountability" and "electric and all infrastructure was [a] disaster before hurricanes."

The president added: "We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!"

FEMA stayed in New Orleans for seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the Gulf Coast, Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, pointed out in a tweet Thursday.

Katrina required about $110 billion in emergency federal funds. The bill the House is considering Thursday includes $16 billion to pay flood insurance claims and emergency funding to help Puerto Rico.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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