TOXIC CONTAMINATION RAISES CONCERN ON SAIPAN

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 3) - Capitol Hill’s I-Denni area had been found and confirmed since last year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be contaminated with lead and polychlorinated biphenyls at levels that exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s cleanup standards, Variety learned yesterday.

This is the second area on Saipan known to have PCB contamination.

In Tanapag, over 30,300 tons of PCB-contaminated soil has so far been treated by the Army Corps and its contractor, Environmental Chemical Corp.

PCB Aroclor 1254 was detected in 25 soil samples collected from the I-Denni area, and Aroclor 1254 was detected in six soil samples.

The Army Corps, in an Aug. 2002 report, said that 21 of the soil samples tainted with PCB exceeded EPA’s preliminary remediation goal of 66 microgram per kilogram.

The Army Corps said 30 soil samples collected at the area contained lead concentration in excess of EPA’s preliminary remediation goal of 400 mg/kg.

The maximum lead concentration measured in the area was 4,400 mg/kg.

However, no evidence of lead contamination was detected in the groundwater sampled from wells and boreholes located in the immediate vicinity.

Mercury was detected at low levels in the area with a maximum concentration of 8.4mg/kg.

Also detected were organochlorine pesticides, diesel and motor oil, tetrachloroethylene, among others.

Juan I. Tenorio, chairman of the Tanapag Action Group, said the Army Corps should be obligated to "clean up immediately" the Capitol Hill area confirmed to have PCB contamination.

"They should clean up every single contaminated site caused by the federal government. It’s sad to know that even our (Division of Environmental Quality) office held back that information to residents within the vicinity and the whole CNMI," said Tenorio.

This contamination issue became the basis for Coastal Resources Management regulatory agencies—which include DEQ—to deny the Marianas Public Lands Authority’s major siting permit application for a homestead project in the area.

The proposed I-Denni Homestead Subdivision is located on Lot 209-E01 west of Sara Market on Capitol Hill, according to CRM permit manager Becky Lizama.

It includes the clearing of 28,968 square meters of public lands for the subdivision of 19 homestead lots, construction of road easements and infrastructure.

Antonio I. Deleon Guerrero, then acting director of DEQ, said in a July 10, 2002 letter to CRM that the site was scheduled for additional assessment and remediation under the Army Corps’ formerly used defense sites program.

He said DEQ had serious concerns about the project, particularly the contamination at the site.

"Soil sampling results already obtained by the Corps show levels of lead and PCB that exceed both U.S. EPA and Guam cleanup standards, among several other contaminants present at lower levels," said Deleon Guerrero.

He said the contamination poses known health risk to residents—and therefore a liability risk to the CNMI government.

Deleon Guerrero said that disturbing the site with the construction of roads and residences in this area may cause the site to lose eligibility for cleanup, and may also cause the CNMI government to become a "potentially responsible party" for the costs of cleanup under local and federal regulations.

"The (Army Corps’) Site Investigation Report confirms the presence of lead and PCB at levels that exceed U.S. EPA preliminary remediation goals," said officials of the CRM regulatory agencies in a decision certified by CRM Administrator Joaquin D. Salas on Aug. 27, 2002.

On Dec. 24, MPLA Commissioner Henry S. Hofschneider requested DEQ Director Juan I. Castro Jr. for a progress report regarding the remediation of the formerly used defense sites.

DEQ officials, including spokeswoman Rebecca Snider, said the division would issue its comment on the issue "soon."

January 3, 2003

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ Marianas Variety.

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