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By Oyaol Ngirairikl

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 21) – It's too late to save his valley with "fancy state-of-the-art landfill things" and attempts at recycling, but Ordot resident George Bell said if island leaders and residents are willing to pull together they can create a waste management process that won't leave another such dastardly footprint on the island.

The 68-year-old Ordot resident recalls trekking through the Lonfit River as a boy with his father to catch shrimp, but those days are long gone, with the river contaminated by leachate from the dump.

"My grandfather bought my family property in the early 1900s," Bell said. "I remember how it was before they started dumping here. It's bad because they never had the money to take care of the landfill properly."

Ordot dump has affected neighboring residents with the smell of spoiling garbage and infestation of rats and has caused fires generating toxic fumes that have required residents' repeated evacuations from their homes. It has polluted surface waters with its leachate, which has led to a federally forced Consent Decree in 2003 that requires the government of Guam to close the dump and open a new sanitary landfill.

When that happens, Bell said, he would like to take advantage of his fruit farm and the natural scenery of his family's 20-acre property and tap into the tourism industry. But that would depend on how well the local government is able to stick to the deadlines in closing the Ordot dump.

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency has drafted a 2005 Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan that is currently available for public review.

The agency is holding a meeting tomorrow at its Tiyan office to answer any questions residents may have about the island's solid waste management plan. Officials also are asking residents to submit suggestions on improving the plan to meet the island's needs.

After the public information meeting, Guam EPA officials will hold a meeting with solid waste agencies and organizations to discuss recycling opportunities and ways of encouraging island residents to recycle.

The new landfill is slated for construction at Dandan, Inarajan, and should be operating by 2007 under a federal deadline. Failure to meet deadline would mean daily fines of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

With educational programs in the schools and in the communities, officials envision a future where Guam's waste management system includes the recycling of glass, metal, plastic and paper, composting of green waste and shipping toxic household waste to an off-island facility, and everything else that cannot be otherwise diverted being safely handled at a state-of-the-art landfill.

Currently, Guam residents recycle only about 2 percent of their trash. Nearly 60 percent of the 225 tons of garbage sent to Ordot dump each day is recyclable, environment officials have said.

"In the draft plan, we're looking at recycling 20 percent of our garbage by 2010," said Guam EPA spokesman Michael Mann.

Echoing Bell's sentiments, Mann noted that plans to move forward are reflective of people's hopes of how the government handles solid waste.

"And the more input, the more we hear from people, the better the plan is going to be and the better it's going to reflect what the community wants and what it can handle," Mann said.

December 21, 2005

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