The Environmental Protection Agency closed down all response operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to safety concerns after Hurricane Maria.
"EPA has temporarily paused all response operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Hurricane Maria," the agency said Friday night.
The agency confirmed to the Washington Examiner that the situation in the Caribbean has become too hazardous for it to effectively operate in the two U.S. territories.
Puerto Rico's electric power has been completely disabled and is not expected to be restored for months. On Saturday, some 70,000 people were being evacuated from communities near a major earthen dam that is about to burst on the swollen Guajataca River.
Puerto Rico is also home to 27 landfills that activist groups have complained to EPA have been used by companies to dump hazardous toxic substances in violation of environmental laws. It is unclear if the landfills have sustained any significant damage in the wake of the storm.
For now, EPA explained that it will remain at its mobile command post in Miami, Fla., where it is coordinating the response to Maria with the U.S. Coast Guard operating in the Florida Keys.
"EPA continues to coordinate with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on drinking water and wastewater issues," the agency said.