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When Madonna came out of the disco ball, she had a smile on her face, from ear-to-ear! After seeing that, it was a of what was yet to come! She was so happy during this show and laughed a lot. One definite highlight is when one of Madonna's male dancers came out of nowhere and ran right past our aisle! He quickly touched my friend and ran up into the higher levels and started dancing!

Name: Ebba

My age: 27
Ethnic: Ukranian
Color of my eyes: I’ve got clear blue eyes but I use colored contact lenses

Three weeks after the storm, the tropical green was just starting to come back, sprouting over the brown wounds of mud and giant trees pulled up from their roots. Here in Arecibo, a small municipality about 40 minutes from San Juan on a good day, high-water marks from the flood stood out on building walls, seven or eight feet high. Obliterated houses marked the deserted hamlets along the road.

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Smokestacks had been snapped in half and wires lay slack where giant power pylons had fallen. Arecibo was a ghost town. But all of the s around us showed that the battle had been—at least for now—lost.

Across the island, residents already beset by water and food shortages are also facing real threats of contamination that have already spread illness and worse. The storm uncovered and intensified long-term environmental challenges that have long blighted Puerto Rico and now threaten its future. And securing a viable future for the island will mean more than just rebuilding what was lost from the wind and rain—it will require addressing those challenges in sustainable ways.

Residents across the island have had to drink water contaminated with sewage, and their water purification systems have largely failed in the wake of the storm, the AP reports. In the municipality of Dorado, about 15 miles to the west of the capital, citizens resorted to drinking well water from Superfund sites, according to local news reports and an EPA brief. The vulnerability of Superfund sites during disasters has been vividly illustrated by the ecological damage in Texas during Hurricane Harvey —and before that, in Louisiana during Katrina and New Jersey during Sandy—but in Puerto Rico, where water deliveries have been bottlenecked by supply and infrastructure issues, those vulnerabilities are much more pronounced.

While the well in question had been found to be within certain federal safety standards for the industrial chemicals chloroform and PCE, residents await further tests to assess the quality of the Dorado water. Those teams are looking at the security of the contaminated sites and the condition of the wells they contain, but still have not been able to visit five Superfund sites on the island. But wells are only one of the avenues by which people are exposed to water pollution, especially where flooding from Irma and Maria was worst. Arecibo is one such place. Myrna and I visited the Battery Recycling Company, an old temporarily-closed facility that in its heyday smelted used batteries into lead ingotsand now sits behind a rusting fence just off the highway.

The site was just added to the Superfund list in July of this year, after the EPA found that lead dust from the facility had contaminated local homes and families. A man who greeted us near the facility, who declined to be identified, shared photographs of the entire facility still flooded four days after the storm.

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Conty, who le a coalition of local residents against the siting of additional incinerators and landfills in the areas, echoed their concerns. Even without the danger of pollutants leaching from Superfund sites, the water in Puerto Rico is still a problem. Further downstream, the municipality of Arecibo was cited in under the Clean Water Act for dumping stormwater and untreated sewage into the river, after which the waste wound up in homes that had been flooded by the river. Other parts of the island face the danger of long-term corruption of drinking water supplies after Maria.

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I found Ruth Santiago, an environmental lawyer based at the Inter American University Law School in San Juan, holding an open-air legal clinic session, training lawyers to offer pro bono legal aid for numerous environmental and housing complaints. Just as the dire situation in Puerto Rico after the storm is at least in part an outgrowth of existing financial and infrastructural woes, the ubiquitous threats of contamination are outgrowths of problems that plagued people before the storm.

Like most islands, Puerto Rico is largely reliant on petroleum derivatives and coal for power, using very few renewable sources, even as backups for the primary grid. For years the PREPA has shipped diesel and fuel oil to the island for use in its centralized power plants, a power plan that ensures environmental fallout and maximizes emissions. The other major portion of the Puerto Rican portfolio is coal, a source that might provide more problems for residents recovering from two hurricanes.

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The AES facility in Guayama is the lone coal-power plant on the island. According to Santiago, who hails from Salinas, the problems of coal power and waste disposal impose a severe burden on the most vulnerable populations in Puerto Rico. The problems in Puerto Rico feel almost too big to grasp. The mounting pressures of an aging and inefficient energy infrastructure, multiplying contaminated sites, waste disposal, and the most contaminated drinking water supply in the United States have long pointed in the direction of disaster.

And now the problems are so much bigger.

Tons of manmade debris and millions of pounds of foliage clog streets and waterways, and threaten to produce an acute trash and pollution crisis in the months to come. At least four hurricane-related deaths have been attributed to diseases like leptospirosis from bacteria in watera that seems likely to rise.

And in the constant state of emergency, the most expedient solutions—like rebuilding the fossil-fuel grid, utilizing even more diesel power, lifting coal-ash restrictions, and creating new incinerators—will likely be pursued regardless of their contribution to long-term environmental problems. But some citizens are attempting to combat pollution even as they work to stave off the worst after the storm.

In the flickering downtown lights of San Juan, the prominent Puerto Rican journalist Jay Fonseca regularly holds meetings of concerned citizens who are attempting to offer services that FEMA and the local government have been unable to provide, but in a sustainable manner. I attended one such meeting last Wednesday. Unfortunately, solar power is mostly unattainable as a source of immediate relief for most Puerto Ricans.

Puerto rico's environmental catastrophe

On October 5, Musk floated the idea on Twitter of Tesla helping rebuild the entire Puerto Rico power grid using renewable sources, but no concrete plans have yet emerged. Necessity prevails, and those places that do have access to solar power have been pillars of the recovery. They offer glimpses of what life on Puerto Rico might look like in a more sustainable future. The hotel lost four solar panels in Hurricane Maria, but Ramirez was able to quickly replace them after the storm passed.

Like many intact hotels, Casa Sol also houses journalists, FEMA contractors, charity workers, and storm victims who lost everything. But unlike most other hotels, residents at Casa Sol can grab hot showers, use WiFi, and even watch the news now and then when the battery is charged.

But they are now. The impacts on Puerto Rico in the past two years alone look like something out of a disaster movie.

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Beaches have eroded, and wetlands have been degraded. Agriculture has suffered three straight bad seasons, and in the territory faced a severe drought that forced authorities to implement widespread water rationing.

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And now Irma and Maria have brought the message home: Here, sustainability is literally survival. For Ortiz, in the wake of federal decisions that have left the island disadvantaged in almost every way and local decisions that have worked against sustainability almost at every turn, the onus is on Puerto Rican citizens to ensure their own survival.

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