GUAM FACES MORE FINES OVER LANDFILL DEADLINE

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By Tammy Anderson

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 26) – Meeting the federal deadline to open a new landfill on Guam and close the Ordot dump in 17 months is looking "less realistic every day," a federal environmental official said yesterday, and the director of the Department of Public Works agrees.

[PIR editor’s note: Ordot is located in the central part of the island of Guam southeast of Hagatna, the capital. According to PIR files, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined Guam Department of Public Works US$2,000 in February for missing a deadline to submit plans and a permit application for a new municipal solid waste landfill. Then earlier this month, Guam was fined again a total of $58,500. A new landfill was slated for construction at Dandan, Inarajan – on the southeast coast of Guam – and should be operating by 2007 under a federal deadline. Failure to meet deadline would mean daily fines of hundreds or thousands of dollars.]

When asked if the dump will be closed on time, Public Works Director Lawrence Perez said it could be done if he spent an "exorbitant" amount of money. He said he is expecting the government to pay more fines.

The agency has already been fined close to US$76,000 for missing several of the court-ordered deadlines to close the environmental hazard known as the Ordot dump. The deadlines and fines are supposed to ensure the local government follows through with the process of opening a landfill to handle the island's garbage in the future.

With the pending transfer of 8,000 Marines to Guam, the need for a reliable solid waste facility and water infrastructure will only increase, said Ben Machol, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region IX Guam program manager, at a press conference yesterday.

During their recent biannual visit, Machol and other federal Environmental Protection Agency officials spent two weeks reviewing how Public Works and Guam Waterworks Authority are following their respective federal court orders. Machol said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials also discussed with Department of Defense officials the upcoming influx of military personnel and their families and its impact to the island's environment.

Machol said the island has a great "opportunity" to benefit from the changes if the local government can ensure the requirements in the federal court orders are completed on deadline.

But Machol said if the smaller deadlines that Public Works has missed are any indication, it appears that major milestones of the consent decree are in jeopardy. It looks "less realistic every day" that the landfill will be open and the dump closed by Oct. 2007, he said.

Just this month, Public Works was fined US$58,500 for missing two deadlines.

Machol said he thinks Public Works needs to hire a solid waste expert to oversee the process of closing the dump and opening a landfill. Doing so the agency may get better organized so that deadlines aren't missed.

Perez said he is trying to hire a solid waste expert but the contract has been in limbo between Public Works and the attorney general's office for three months. The Attorney General's office said yesterday it is currently waiting for the contract from Department of Public Works officials.

Public Works is not the only Guam Government agency that could be fined in the coming months.

This week, Guam Waterworks Authority asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials to extend the June 5 deadline requiring it to repair a hole in the Hagåtña sewage outfall. Machol would not say if the extension would be granted.

Guam Waterworks Authority officials have also said that if they are granted the extension, it could mean more requirements added to the agency's court order.

May 26, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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