Excerpts from the daily journal of Jeremy Martinez, Business Development, CHC
Day 2 – We arrived at the Convention Center the next morning and began looking to connect with our points of contact within the EPA. The game plan for the day was to have Emily and I accompany a member of the EPA, FEMA, or the Department of Health on field visits to the non-PRASA run treatment plants in the rural parts of the island. PRASA is the municipal water utility in Puerto Rico. Our focus during these site visits would be to evaluate the condition of the treatment plant facility and determine operability and effectiveness of the plant, and if treatment was not active, provide a recommended solution to bring the plant back online.
Once we were joined by our EPA contacts (made through Seth and Samantha’s efforts), we attended a coordination meeting between the government organizations on the ground, along with other water-focused NGO’s (Non-governmental Organizations), and were assigned teams and communities with non-PRASA treatment plants to visit that day. The meeting was being held at the Sheraton Hotel a short walk from the Convention Center. In addition to the Convention Center, there was also a lot of government relief activity being coordinated at the hotel.
While on our way to the staging area back at the Convention Center, the clouds opened up and released a deluge of rain. I found myself out in the open with little cover and got drenched as a result. It was very hot outside even this early in the morning, so I found it kind of nice being cooled down by the rain.
One by one our cars pulled up to the staging dock where military personnel would load the vehicles with food, water, and tarps from the pallets of supplies they had in the Convention Center. We were nearly loaded up when the EPA issued a safety stand-down on the day’s field missions due to the thunderstorm that seemed to appear out of nowhere. People who lived on the island or who had been there for weeks said it was the heaviest storm to hit since the hurricane. The stand-down was issued due to the already poor roadway conditions leading out to the rural communities in the mountains. Many roads had already been washed out and were impassable due to fallen trees, downed power poles, and landslides. It was believed the heavy rain from the storm passing over might create undue travel conditions for the field teams.
Instead of performing field visits, the EPA invited us up to the FEMA Command Center to discuss and work on the site assessment forms. Since there were already a number of agencies utilizing the site assessment data in the format it had been provided in, there were only limited changes to the existing forms the EPA was willing to incorporate. As such, we focused on creating spreadsheets to present the assessment data in an abridged and organized format, as well as reviewing the completed assessments to provide recommended engineered solutions for each site needing attention. We also began thinking of ways to prioritize each site based on greatest need. We were able to obtain 2010 census data from the GIS team in the Command Center and Emily was able to plot the points using a GIS mapping tool she had. This information provided us with a general idea of the population of each community, although it was outdated.
Once we had created the new assessment data tables, we got to work analyzing the sites that had been visited to that point. We processed the approximate 40 sites that had been visited to that point and called it a day around 7:00 pm. Back at the apartment we reconnected with the Project Hope medical team and traded stories on the day’s activities, got a bite to eat, then went to sleep on a floor pad in the sauna of a living room. The next day would be for field visits so we needed to be at it early.