GUAM SCHOOL WATER BUDGET EXCEEDED

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By Oyaol Ngirairikl For Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (August 27, 2002 – Pacific Daily News)---The Department of Education has overspent the $240,000 it was given to ensure safe water in public schools, and has yet to use the water filtration systems the agency bought with that money.

According to DOE Comptroller Ray Miranda, the total spent so far is $257,828.46, which is $17,828.46 more than the amount authorized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The education department used the FEMA money to buy water supplies and bottled water, and to hire contractors to install ultraviolet water filters in 27 school cafeterias, Miranda said.

Since July 10, a boil-water notice has been in effect for northern and central Guam because bacteria were found in tap water.

Miranda expects the costs to continue to rise because the education department is still buying water supplies for the schools.

Twenty of the 27 schools that required water filtration systems have had them installed, but none of them are using the water from those systems, said Mike Pangelinan, DOE procurement manager.

The systems are not in use because the education department is still waiting for results of bacteria testing from the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, Pangelinan said. Some of the schools have had systems in place since school began Aug. 12.

GEPA officials have said the bacteria tests take one day. Repeated phone calls to GEPA water officials were not returned yesterday.

Water companies will continue to deliver bottled water to the schools until the GEPA clearances are received, Pangelinan said.

"Just the fact that we have it installed doesn't make it safe for drinking," Pangelinan said.

Last week GEPA officials said DOE maintenance workers are not licensed to perform a sanitation process the new water filtration systems require, Pangelinan said.

Culligan of Guam and Water and Ice Express have since been contracted by the education department to do that work, he said.

George Washington High School is one of the schools waiting for GEPA water test results, said school principal Ed San Nicolas. The Mangilao school uses about 70 five-gallon water jugs daily for its 2,662 students, San Nicolas said.

To help cut costs, San Nicolas said he plans to use water from the filtration systems to refill those bottles once GEPA officials give him permission to do so, which San Nicolas expects to happen today.

Education officials will ask for additional FEMA money for water supplies, Miranda said.

According to Jeanette Yamashita, DOE elementary associate superintendent, compelling reasons for the increase must be presented to the federal agency.

FEMA representatives said they have not yet received a request from the education department for more money.

Evelyn Salas, DOE spokeswoman, said the education department will use local funds for water if FEMA money is unavailable.

More than $43 million has been spent by the federal agency on Typhoon Chata'an recovery here, according to Dick Davin, FEMA public information officer.

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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