GUAM GOVERNMENT MAKING MESS OF WATER SERVICE

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Jan. 6) - The Guam Waterworks Authority continues to strengthen the case for expedited privatization of water and wastewater operations, as it continues to miss deadlines set by a federal stipulated order.

The utility is technically in default for failing to install emergency generators at water and wastewater pump stations, but GWA has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency, according to Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities.

The stipulated order originally called for the installation of 63 generators by September 2, 2005. The EPA approved a Waterworks schedule that would have had 21 generators in place by December 31. But NONE of those generators had been installed as of a January 3, according to an EPA letter to Waterworks. Now GWA has a new deadline of January 28, by which time it must provide "a detailed, generator-specific installation and repair schedule" to EPA, according to the letter. Sanchez said that plan is finalized and will be submitted before the end of the deadline.

Also due to EPA on January 28 is a list of certified positions -- direct responsible charge, or DRC, operators for both water and wastewater systems that Waterworks needs to fill to be compliant with the stipulated order. As it stands, according to Waterworks, it will need 13 DRC operators, which must be hired by April 29, according to the order.

The CCU chairman said that following Civil Service Commission regulations has hindered the ability of Waterworks to fill the DRC operator positions. While it's a given that the CSC process can be slow and complicated, the water utility has had well over a year to either certify existing employees or to hire ones that meet the qualifications.

Both of these instances serve to show the need to get a private company in charge of operations at GWA. A private company can hire the personnel required by the stipulated order when and where they need them. It also has the spending flexibility needed to either repair emergency generators at pump stations or to buy new ones. And a private company won't risk racking up thousands of dollars a day in EPA fines before taking action; it will work much more quickly to address any EPA concerns because mounting fines equals less revenue.

For these reasons, and so many others, we need the CCU to sit down with the Legislature and the administration to work on the fastest possible approach to the privatization of GWA operations.

January 7, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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