AES under the view of the community

Mabette Colón / 16 years / Puerto Rico

Thousands of families that live in the community of Puente de Jobos in Guayama are suffering for the intense smell, noise, and pollution that produces Aplied Energy System (AES).

Guayama, PR 2019- AES (Aplied Energy System), a coal burning power plant working since 2002 is located less then a mile from the community school. In the positive side this facility generates approximately 17% of the energy in Puerto Rico; but sadly Puente de Jobos has another story. Natividad Perez, resident of the community of Miramar (the nearest to the plant) had lived there for 60 years. In a conversation, she told us how her life had change since 2002: “In 2013 I was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer, also with chronic sinositis” a very hard disease to live with this days. Natividad is working with a group called “Comunidad Guayamesa Unidos Por Tu Salud”, this group have been battling for 5 years to stop the production. She has learned about all the chemical components that the coal ash has. For the past years she has, not only being battling the illness but also have become slave of cleanliness.

Dr. Gelson Jimenez, medical director of the Menonita Hospital in Guayama said on a public hearing (Guayama, 2017) how the incidence of cancer and other diseases have been growing since 2002. Most of the patients he receives suffers from respiratory diseases or cancer. Recently a study made by Dr. Luis Bonilla in the community of Puente de Jobos through the Public Health School of the University of Puerto Rico made a comparison, through a survey, of the diseases reported by the community in 2016 and 2018. This revealed how every disease increased substantially in a two-year period (Díaz Colón, 2019).

An interview with Osvaldo Rosario, Professor of Environmental Chemestry for the University of Puerto Rico, gave us an explanation of the components of the coal ash residue and the effect this have in people and their environment. “Coal ash is an inorganic product, it means that the part wouldn’t burn” that makes ashes a byproduct inherent to coal energy production. Coal ash have chemicals and elements such as Arsenic, Carbon, Selenium, Lead, radioactive isotopes and an innumerable amount of other carcinogens. “This is the reason why people in Puente de Jobos is dying” said Dr. Rosario.  These components not only cause cancer and lung diseases, they also cause eye and skin irritations, head ache, nausea, etc.

The question is, where is the government when the community needs it? From public hearing to air and water quality test. The community has made many claims to the government and they haven’t seen any movement.

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