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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Puerto Rico (Section 319I - 1994)

Puerto Rico has focused its nonpoint source efforts on control measures in five priority watersheds. Problems include livestock enterprises, croplands, and sediment and erosion from agriculture and construction activities. Reducing Livestock Wastes to Improve Water Quality In Puerto Rico, livestock is both an important agricultural enterprise and a principal source of nonpoint pollution. This dichotomy is most evident along the La Plata River, with its abundance of livestock ventures. The La Plata River is a basin covering some 239 square miles and containing the La Plata Reservoir, which serves nearly 364,000 residents. Each year livestock enterprises add some 137,000 cubic meters of fecal waste to the waters of the La Plata River. Over the past four years, the Environmental Quality Board (EQB), the state agency charged with implementing the nonpoint source management program, has recommended best management practices to treat and dispose of animal fecal wastes at livestock farms. Once farmers implement BMPs, EQB certifies the practice and issues a compliance certificate. At present, only voluntary controls are used to prevent further contamination of island waters.

From FY 1990 to 1993, section 319 has provided $1,127,154 for field staff to evaluate and certify BMP implementation. EQB has provided additional resources, including in-kind services and personnel. Other local and agency funds are used to provide farmers with incentives to install BMPs. EQB recommends that all BMPs installed have collection, treatment, and disposal components. - Examples of BMPs to manage fecal wastes include collection of animal waste in oxidation ponds or retention tanks and irrigation systems for crops using trenches or other methods.

The 319 funds enabled EQB to establish a baseline and track the progress of water quality improvements during four years of efforts to encourage use of BMPs in the La Plata River basin, especially upstream of the La Plata Reservoir. Figure 2-1 tracks nutrients (nitrate, nitrite, and total phosphorous) and bacteria (fecal coliforms and streptococcus). The figure shows that fecal coliform and total phosphorous trends improved during the period, due to efforts to eliminate poultry manure storage on farms. The increase in nitrate and nitrite and fecal streptococcus shows a continuing problem, largely because of the increase in poultry farming on the island. However, a new processing plant, expected to be operational in the near future, will compost the manure, package it, and distributed it to farmers as fertilizer. This is expected to decrease these pollution sources.

Also under the nonpoint source management program, the EQB has been developing an animal waste control regulation (AWCR). This regulation would give EQB the legal power to require livestock enterprise owners to implement management systems. It would also empower the EQB to enforce controls to reduce contamination. After its adoption, the measure will be tested in the La Plata River basin. This proposal will be sent to public hearing in the fall of 1994.

By continuing the initiatives of the nonpoint source management program, the Commonwealth plans to further diminish the nutrient and bacteriological concentrations in the La Plata Reservoir.


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