SAIPAN GARMENT FACTORY FINED FOR POLLUTION

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By Haidee V. Eugenio

Variety News Staff

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Aug. 25) - The
Coastal Resources Management has again imposed a maximum $10,000 fine on L&T
Group of Companies Ltd., this time for the illegal discharge of laundry
wastewater and foamy substance into a wetland adjacent to its garment
manufacturing facility in Lower Base, Variety learned.

In a notice of violation and assessment of fine dated Aug. 20,
CRM Director Joaquin D. Salas said these activities are "irresponsible
actions" that are very detrimental to the environment.

He urged L&T — one of the largest private companies in the
CNMI — to be a "responsible partner in the community."

In a two-page letter to L&T president and Saipan Tribune
owner Willie Tan, Salas said the discharge of toxic substance or laundry
detergent into the adjacent wetland has potentially caused the destruction
and/or degradation of critical wetlands habitats.

Steven Pixley, chief legal counsel of Tan Holdings Corp., the
parent company of L&T, said the company has immediately halted the discharge
of detergent into the adjacent wetland.

"I have reviewed the citation and my client is in the
process of addressing the problems raised by CRM.... We’re very sensitive on
environmental issues," Pixley told Variety.

Salas said CRM enforcement officers also found during the Aug.
19 routine monitoring of the garment manufacturing facility an employee cleaning
an air-conditioner using a foamy substance which was also being discharged into
the adjacent wetland.

Pixley said L&T will ensure that this activity will not
happen again to prevent the deterioration of the adjacent wetland.

Salas said CRM enforcement officers also discovered metal drums
containing oil that were being stored on the ground surface — without a
secondary containment — near the adjacent wetland.

He said an enforcement action against L&T dated Dec. 23,
2002 required that all oil drums must be stored within a containment berm.

The CRM director urged L&T to "adhere to good
management practices" and "be a responsible partner in the
community."

"It is very disturbing that despite previous enforcement
actions involving monetary fines and other sanctions taken against L&T Group
of Companies Ltd., violations of environmental regulations continue to
occur," Salas told Tan.

Salas added that CRM is left with no options but to impose a
$10,000 fine in order to compel compliance with CRM rules and CNMI law.

CRM also ordered the company to cease and desist from further
discharging its wastewater into the adjacent wetland.

"In addition, L&T...must conduct an assessment of the
impact to the adjacent wetland as a result of the illegal discharge of its
wastewater," Salas said.

This assessment, he said, must be completed within 60 days from
receipt of the notice.

The company has 30 days to request for an enforcement hearing on
the CRM notice of violation and assessment of fines.

Pixley said L&T has so far not made a determination as to
what course of action to take on this matter.

CRM has repeatedly issued L&T warning notices, notices of
violations and other communications regarding non-compliance with environmental
rules and laws during the past several years.

On Dec. 23, 2002, CRM imposed a $10,000 fine on L&T, but the
company requested for a reduction, resulting in an actual payment of $4,000
early this year, Variety learned.

Some of the most recent violations of L&T included
construction activities without permits; disposal of debris and metal junk near
the mechanical shop into the bush area adjacent to the wetlands; steam water
from a boiler system being discharged into the stream via a buried pipeline; and
building of a pedestrian bridge over a waterway without first securing a permit
from CRM.

L&T was also accused by some of its former workers of
cheating the government by not properly reporting its wastewater discharge.

August 25, 2003

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

 

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