NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS PHOSPHATE BAN WILL HELP SAVE REEFS

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By Jayvee Vallejera

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (September 4, 2001 - Saipan Tribune/PINA Nius Online)---Here’s good news for the environment!

The bill that would ban the sale, manufacture, distribution, and use of cleaning agents containing phosphates now heads to the desk of Governor Pedro P. Tenorio after it sailed through the Northern Marianas Senate on a unanimous vote.

Phosphate, though a naturally occurring substance, has been proven to be harmful, as it is non-biodegradable. When mixed with detergents, it eventually ends up at sea, which causes nutrient overload in the seas surrounding the islands, leading to potential eutrophication of coastal waters.

Eutrophication -- or the overloading of nutrients which leads to lack of oxygen in the water -- leads in turn to the destruction of the coral reefs and the habitat they provide for many marine organisms.

Besides banning the use of detergents containing phosphate, the bill also empowers the Division of Environmental Quality to pass rules and regulations necessary to regulate the sale and use of phosphorus base chemicals.

The bill was primarily authored by Rep. Rosiky F. Camacho, but among those who are pushing for the bill’s passage is the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, which originally came up with the idea for the bill.

Earlier, the House Committee on Health and Welfare chaired by Rep. Maria "Malua" T. Peter recommended the passage of H.B. 12-167, saying that the bill is consistent with the goals and desire of the House in protecting the environment, "most especially the pristine beauty of our lagoons and reefs."

The bill provides exceptions, though, to cleaning agents that are used in hospitals, health care facilities and veterinary hospitals; the ones used in agricultural production; and those used in any laboratory.

Those detergents or cleaning agents that are exempted from the bill must contain phosphates, or elemental phosphorus, that do not exceed .5 percent.

If passed, those who violate the provisions of this measure will face up to $25,000 in fines for each day of continuing violation of the law.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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