Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Serrano Provision Will Force Vieques/Culebra Clean Up Status Update

Congressman José E. Serrano
Representing the Fifteenth District of New York

Washington, DC – June 9, 2014 – Today, Congressman José E. Serrano announced that two provisions he inserted into the annual Defense Appropriations bill will force the Department of Defense to submit reports of the plan for the final clean up on the islands, and also a full listing of the types of explosives used over the years, and what remains. Long an advocate for the full restoration of Vieques and Culebra, Congressman Serrano felt the clean up was falling behind schedule, that information was lacking, and that full accountability on both was needed.

"While I am glad this legislative language will move the clean up forward, I am disheartened that it continues to take Congressional action to ensure the Defense Department complies with its promises," said Congressman José E. Serrano.  "The areas used by the military in Vieques and Culebra suffered extreme environmental degradation in their years as Defense Department property. Since the agreement was reached to restore them and return them to a state of environmental health, Puerto Ricans have waited for an expected date when the work will be over. I hope that through this legislative language we might have a final plan and end date.

“I also believe that the report on the type and quantity of ordnance used, and an estimate of what remains to be cleaned up, will give us a better idea of what risks there might be and what has been dealt with. This is particularly important in terms of potential health risks. We must know what explosives and chemicals islanders were exposed to, and what risks those pose for current and future health issues.

“I do thank the Defense Department for their efforts thus far, and I believe that we actually have the same goal. I am certain they want to turn over an environment that is restored and poses no ongoing risk to residents and visitors. We all can work together for that goal and look forward to a day in the not-too-distant future when it is achieved." 

The report language contained in the report accompanying the FY 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill is as follows:

The Committee remains concerned about the pace of environmental restoration on the islands of Vieques and Culebra.  Therefore, the Committee directs the Secretary of the Navy, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army, to submit a report to the congressional defense committees not later than 60 days after the enactment of this Act detailing a plan and schedule for the completion of the clean-up of the contaminated areas of Vieques and Culebra.

The Committee also notes that there are gaps in information about types and amounts of ordnance used on Vieques and Culebra and potential links between such ordnance used and present threats to public health.  The Committee further directs the Secretary of the Navy, in coordination with the Secretary of the Army, to submit a report to the congressional defense committees not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act that details the types of weapons deployed on these islands, as well as the estimated level of use of these types of ordnance at these two sites.  Finally, the Committee also urges the Secretary of Defense to make the relevant documents available to the public.

Congressman José E. Serrano has represented The Bronx in Congress since 1990. He is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.
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