START OF SCHOOL ON GUAM MAY BE DELAYED: WATER TOO COSTLY

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By Mark-Alexander Pieper

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (August 1, 2002 - Pacific Daily News)---The start of public school may be delayed, according to the Department of Education.

Evelyn Salas, DOE spokeswoman, said the education department does not have the money to pay for purified water and other sanitary items such as paper towels.

Guam's water system has been contaminated since Typhoon Chata'an hit July 5, and the education department announced Tuesday it would use bottled water to open schools as scheduled next week.

Salas said the cost for bottled water and other items for the department's 37 schools would be about $12,000 a day.

"We might have to delay the opening of school if we are unable to find the funding to pay the $12,000 a day," Salas said.

"We are contacting the Office of Civil Defense, meeting with the (Federal Emergency Management Agency) officials to see if they can provide for the water. But as of right now, school is still scheduled to begin August 5th."

Bottled water

The Department of Public Health and Social Services is trying to find out what caused batches of water from two water bottling companies to be contaminated.

Samples of Pacific Diamond five-gallon bottles produced July 25 and Tropicool one-liter bottles made July 11 have tested positive for total coliform bacteria.

Public Health officials noted treatment systems at Tropicool and Pacific Diamond tested negative for total coliform.

Officials think because the water treatment plants tested negative, the contamination probably occurred within the bottles or during storage of the water bottles, said Rosanna Rabago, acting administrator for Public Health's Division of Environmental Health.

"Maybe they are not protecting their bottles. Maybe they are not storing it appropriately or maybe there is a lot of exposure to dust," she said.

"A bottle has an opening on the top and if it's not covered or stored properly then you run a risk of contamination. It all depends on how they are filling their bottles."

Paul Alfred, general manager of Pacific Diamond, said the company's water tested negative but the five-gallon bottles were positive, possibly because of the way customers treat them.

"When a customer gets a bottle you don't know what they do with it ... they put all sorts of things in the bottles and then return it," Alfred said.

"We ask our customers to please cap the bottles but what can you do? We have no control of what they do so what we've done now is we've added a disinfectant to inject into our final rinse and we've also changed our soap. We are doing everything we can to make sure that it doesn't matter -- whatever you send us, it is going to be clean and sanitized."

Pepsi Cola Bottling Company did not return a message left late Wednesday afternoon for comment.

An immediate recall of both batches produced on those dates was issued and is ongoing. As of yesterday, Pacific Diamond has recovered 70 percent of the recalled bottles.

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency, which is in charge of water testing, did not find bacteria in products from the island's other two bottled water companies, Foremost and Island Choice.

The answers Public Health finds during its investigation into the causes of contamination will help the agency set protocols for bottling companies, Rabago said.

Waterworks

Guam Waterworks Authority officials were scheduled to meet with Guam Girl Scouts Executive Director Vickie Fish to find out how the water agency can help resolve a problem at the Girl Scout building in Tumon, said GWA spokeswoman Esther Gumataotao.

Since the typhoon, the Girl Scouts have been unable to hold programs at their Tumon office because of health hazards from the Mamanajao Pump Station, which Fish said Tuesday is leaking raw sewage.

That pump station, located near the intersection of Route 1 and Airport Road, dumped about 7.2 million gallons of raw sewage into the Harmon sink over six days in January 2001, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Gumataotao said the problem at the Girl Scout building may have to do with a urine trap that may have dried up.

Shifting

Residents in Mangilao -- along Route 15 and Pagat -- and Barrigada -- along portions of Route 16, Route 10 and Route 8 -- will be without water from 8 p.m. today to 6 a.m. tomorrow as part of the water agency's scheduled water shifting.

The agency has been moving water around to help rebuild pressure in different villages since Chata'an damaged the system.

Waterworks has water tankers located at Catholic Social Services in Barrigada Heights and the Office of Civil Defense in Agana Heights, Gumataotao said.

"We are slowly moving out of typhoon recovery and back into normal operations," she said.

Power

The Guam Power Authority continues to work on isolated areas that suffered greater damage during Chata'an, said GPA Assistant General Manager Eric Untalan.

GPA crews were able to restore power to government offices in Tiyan, which was severely damaged during Chata'an when the typhoon's eye passed over those areas.

The power agency's generators are now producing 456 megawatts of power and GPA officials expect a peak demand of 232 megawatts, he said.

GPA crews have responded to more than 700 of the 2,000 trouble calls the agency has received since Chata'an, he said.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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