(UPDATED) Millions of water bottles left sitting on runway in Puerto Rico since last year

(UPDATED) Millions of water bottles left sitting on runway in Puerto Rico since last year
As many as one million water bottles, delivered by FEMA, have sat undelivered at a Puerto Rico airport since last year. The water is now presumed to be unsafe for human consumption. (Image source: CBS News screenshot)

UPDATE — Sept. 13, 8:50 a.m.:

In a Twitter update, CBS’ David Begnaud reported that, according to FEMA, the water bottles found on the runway in Ceiba “was ‘excess’ water not needed during the response phase.” A FEMA official told Begnaud that the bottles were moved from storage in January and onto the airport runway.

The original report is below.

What appears to be millions of bottles of water — delivered by FEMA for victims of Hurricane Maria — have sat unused on a runway in Puerto Rico since last year. At this point, the water is presumed to be unfit for drinking.

What’s the story?

Abdiel Santana, a photographer who works for the Puerto Rico police, said that he first saw the water in October or November 2017. There are, apparently, at least hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of water bottles sitting at an airport in Ceiba, Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria had hit the island last September.

On Tuesday, Santana posted pictures of the water bottles on his Facebook page, noting that it was still on the tarmac a year later.

CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had confirmed to him that it had delivered those specific water bottles to Puerto Rico last year. Once delivered, the water bottles were reportedly turned over to the U.S. General Services Administration in Puerto Rico. It is still unclear what happened next and why the water bottles were never moved or distributed.

However, a representative from the GSA told TheBlaze that the “GSA was neither assigned nor responsible for the distribution of water bottles to hurricane victims. Additionally, GSA did not procure water for FEMA during the referenced event [Hurricane Maria].”

Begnaud noted that “the water was kept in an area that was pretty hard-hit during the storm, and could have used all the water they could have gotten.”

Chef José Andrés, who has been providing assistance to Puerto Rico, tweeted that teams working for him were aware of the water, but told that they could not use it.

What else?

In a media briefing on Tuesday with FEMA administrator Brock Long, President Donald Trump called the work that FEMA and local law enforcement had done in Puerto Rico “an incredible, unsung success.”

“It was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about,” he added.