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Saturday, July 20, 2024


The giant government debt to the Water and Power Authority and the one week delay in the territory being declared a federal disaster area were blamed Friday for WAPA's slow response to Hurriane Lenny's damage.
In an interview with WVWI Radio One News Director Jean Greaux, WAPA Executive Director Raymond L. George said the utility simply did not have enough money to pump into the mobilization of off island crews and equipment to shorten the recovery period.
"We understand that the government is having a difficult financial time but our finances are being impacted by the government’s fiscal deficiencies," George said. "Not many businesses can continue to operate while being owed $30 million by the government."
WAPA’s second largest obstacle was the time it took for the the White House to issue the federal disaster declaration. The declaration, George said, is the only instrument that authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the authority for a portion of the expenses it incurs in the recovery effort.
"To get FEMA reimbursement we had to wait on the federal declaration," George stated. "Any prior movement of additional manpower and equipment would have been the financial responsibility of WAPA and our financial situation is so poor that there are literally no funds left for the procuring of outside help."
But with the federal declaration now in place, efforts are underway to secure the services of the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority. A contract is expected to be drawn today with crews from PREPA arriving here early next week, George added.
He urged the public to realize that although the infrastructure of the territory survived relatively well, the electrical distribution system was severely damaged.
"Sometimes it's not until we bring up a feeder do we find blown or leaking insulators which can trip the entire feeder." George explained, " We then have to go out and search for the faulty insulator, and you can have up to thousands of insulators on one feeder."
This is a time consuming process which requires both understanding and patience, the WAPA boss said.
George praised WAPA personnel, from linemen to plant operators, for their dedication to duty.
"They were out there even while the high winds were still blowing, attempting to replace transformers, insulators and closing fuses to allow us to bring the system up as quickly as possible."
Responding to public criticism of WAPA for its slow response, George said the misguided comments of the political leaders only act to further demoralize an already exhausted WAPA team.
"It bothers me to hear this criticism because I know what it is doing to our employees," George said.

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