LOCAL NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS FIRM READY TO TAKE ON DESALINIZATION PROJECT

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By Jayvee Vallejera

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (March 12, 2002 – Saipan Tribune)---A local company is now positioning itself to take on the task of implementing a pilot desalinization project that is being touted as the future solution to the ever-dwindling supply of water in the Commonwealth.

This comes in the wake of the recent passage of House Resolution 13-33, which asked the administration and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. to expedite the implementation of a desalinization plant for Precinct III as a pilot project.

Desalinization is a process of removing the salt from seawater to make it potable.

TR Water Filters district manager Angelito Delos Santos said that, probably for the first time in the history of the CNMI, a local company will be participating in the submission of proposals for the desalinization plant.

"This is still at the preliminary stage, so we still have to put together the Division of Environmental Quality, Coastal Resources Management and federal environmental agencies to do research first, because everybody’s concern is the environmental impact of the plant itself -- the impact of the desalinization plant’s discharge on marine life. We don’t want to alter the environmental setup here," Delos Santos said.

Delos Santos said he is not aware of any other local company participating in this project. Other bidders for it would most likely be U.S. mainland companies or foreign firms.

At this stage, he said the project has no specific price tag.

He underscored the need for the project, saying that as the population grows, the demand for drinking water goes up, too.

"The problem is that there is only one percent of potable water available in the world; 99 percent of the water on Earth is saltwater or seawater. So, it is inevitable that, in the future, not only in our islands but also in each country, there would be a water shortage. And without water, there’s no life. I believe this project is long overdue," he said.

Delos Santos cited Reps. Jesus T. Attao, Ramon Tebuteb and Sen. Ramon Guerrero for giving the project high priority.

It was Attao who authored the resolution asking Gov. Juan N. Babauta, CUC Executive Director Bernard P. Villagomez and the CUC Board of Directors to expedite the implementation of the pilot desalinization project in Precinct III.

This would cover the Lower Navy Hill, Upper Navy Hill, Garapan Proper, Chinatown, Falipe, As Palomo, Gualo Rai, Lower Gualo Rai, Quarter Master, Chalan Kiya, Chalan Laulau and San Jose villages.

"These areas have been burdened for many years with poor water supply, not only in the quantity of water available but extremely poor in the quality, which is detrimental to the health of its residents," said Attao.

CUC has already drilled five water wells in Gualo Rai but only one was producing water, at about 35 gallons per minute. In China Town, the CUC drilled two water wells, with one of the wells producing less than 30 gallons per minute and one producing more than 60 gallons per minute, but extremely poor in quality.

"The rapid growth of the population of these areas in recent years has exacerbated an already desperate need for a consistent supply of potable water, which does not exist, together with the already meager supply of tap water being so salty and utterly unfit for human consumption and use. The residents of these areas have been suffering for the longest time due to water rationing or no water at all," said Attao.

Attao said that building a seawater reverse osmosis desalinization plant is the key to providing potable water in sufficient supply to the villages of Precinct III and the island of Saipan, as a pilot project.

"[This project] is entirely consistent with the Governor’s Emergency Water Task Force findings per the recently completed Saipan Water Master Plan," said the lawmaker.

Sen. Guerrero, who is a former CUC executive director, said that he has been pushing for this project for a long time now.

"Even when I was still with CUC, I had been advocating for this. Desalinization is the solution to the water shortage problem and the earlier we tackle this the better will it be for the future economic growth of the CNMI," he said.

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

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