The IDDE Task Force and illegal discharges
In 2014, the San Juan Bay Estuary Program created and constituted a multi-sectoral group to identify and correct untreated wastewater discharges and other sources of pollution. This group was baptized with the name of the Illegal Discharges Detection & Elimination Task Force (IDDE Task Force).
The group has the participation of state and federal agencies such as the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, the Environmental Quality Board, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also collaborates with the eight municipalities located within the Estuary’s watershed, as well as representatives of the communities and academia.
The IDDE Task Force meets at least four times a year, subject to the reported cases. In those meetings, the cases are presented and discussed, with the purpose of developing an action plan aimed at correcting said discharges. Sometimes entities and external consultants are invited to share information, exchange ideas and technology and propose new strategies. One of the group’s main activities is the coordination of field visits to places and facilities where illegal discharges are identified.
Although the group has the presence of agencies and regulatory entities, the dynamic is voluntary, in good faith and friendly. This allows problems to be corrected proactively and in full collaboration. The IDDE Task Force has been reviewed in the press and is recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a model to emulate to detect and correct illegal discharges in other watersheds.
Complementary to the IDDE Task Force, there is a project under contract in which the University of Puerto Rico’s Agricultural Experimental Station participates. This project consists of the identification and characterization of specific outflows of illegal discharges in the basin. In essence, a group of specialists visit rivers, streams and other points with instruments to measure water quality parameters and perform bacteria counts indicating fecal contamination.
Today, this project is in a second phase. It consists in the correction and monitoring of previously identified discharges in 12 critical areas. The information collected is channeled through the IDDE Task Force for immediate action. Moreover, as part of the project, the Citizen Monitoring Network has been created. This group is made up of Estuary community members who are trained to give continuity and perpetuate the efforts to improve water quality in the Estuary.