Lack of water in Puerto Rico town sparks federal lawsuit

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s water and sewer company was hit by a federal lawsuit on Thursday demanding that it provide services to thousands of residents who lack potable water on a daily basis.

The class-action lawsuit was filed by Carmen Maldonado, mayor of the northern town of Morovis, who requested that a judge issue an injunction to force Puerto Rico’s Aqueducts and Sewer Authority to provide immediate service to residents in need.

The lawsuit represents nearly 1,600 residents and seeks $1,000 for every day spent without water as compensation, alleging that the lack of water has caused more than $55 billion in damages.

Maldonado said daily interruptions in water service have long been a problem in Morovis that grew worse after Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017 as a powerful Category 4 storm and razed the U.S. territory’s electric grid.

The lawsuit states that every day on average at least three wards within the municipality have no water service. It also noted that the town has spent more than $1 million in hiring and deploying water trucks since January 2017.

The lawsuit accuses the water and sewer company of blaming the problem on heavy rainfalls, power outages, mechanical failures and other issues.

“Every day there is an excuse,” it states, adding that the company has not adjusted the bills and that those suing “have a constitutional right to water service.”

Daily power outages remain common across Puerto Rico, with officials saying that if power generators are not working, they are unable to pump water.

A spokeswoman for the water and sewer company did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

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