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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 8) – Federal attorneys are taking the Guam government back to court because of blown deadlines to close the Ordot dump and open a new landfill, but Department of Public Works Director Lawrence Perez said he sees a court hearing as an opportunity to revise the plans.

[PIR editor’s note: Ordot is located in the central part of the island of Guam southeast of Hagatna, the capital.]

Among other things, approval from the Public Utilities Commission needs to be added to the process because the cost of closing the dump and opening the new landfill will be passed on to ratepayers, possibly meaning new trash tipping fees, Perez said.

Lawmakers also need to be added to the process, he said, because closing the dump and opening a new landfill will require legislative action.

"This is an opportunity to add new signatories, to amend the time lines, to amend the schedule to include many components that were inadvertently excluded or need to be included, ... to extend it to a reasonable time frame that the government can reasonably deliver," Perez said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office on Wednesday asked the District Court of Guam to hold a status hearing to discuss Government of Guam's "significant violations" and the need for measures to force compliance with a 2003 consent decree to close the Ordot dump and open a new landfill.

The court has not scheduled a hearing, according to its Web site.

Government of Guam is required to close the Ordot dump and open a landfill by 2007, according to the decree signed by local and federal officials in late 2003. A site in Dandan, Inarajan, has been identified as the location for a new sanitary landfill.

The decree is the result of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against the government of Guam to force the closure of the dump, which has been a major environmental and public health concern since the 1980s.

Many of the deadlines outlined for the current year have been broken, including deadlines to complete designs and to award construction contracts. Those steps were to be completed a couple of months ago, but still are pending.

"The consent decree is now more a document to enforce penalties now," Perez said. "Dates have come and gone, and we're not going to make it."

He said it is difficult to work under a consent decree because both sides cannot meet and agree to change deadlines, as necessary. He said if the dump was being closed under a stipulated order, then many of the issues that have cropped up during the past few years could have been addressed without going to court.

Perez said Public Works now would like to hire contractors to oversee the final steps of closing the dump and opening the new landfill because contractors would not be as hampered by bureaucracy. "The experts will have their own engineering departments and their own resources and their own equipment, and they're quicker and more efficient," he said.

The initial deadlines of the consent decree were easier to meet, he said, because there was little money involved, but the last steps are more complicated and involve tens of millions of dollars in funding.

He said it is expected to cost about US$50 million to close the Ordot dump and about US$37 million to open a new landfill.

The new landfill is supposed to be operating by next September, according to the consent decree, and the Ordot dump is supposed to be closed by next October.

Perez said it will take as little as 18 months and as long as 2 years to complete those projects once a contract has been awarded.

He said an interim solution would be to build a road to the new landfill and create only the first two solid waste cells so the site can begin accepting solid waste. A containment trench can be built at the Ordot dump to prevent chemicals from seeping into the river from the dump, he said, adding that both those projects would take about a year to complete.

The government of Guam missed these deadlines stated in the federal court order to close the Ordot dump and open a new solid-waste landfill:

January 2005: The Department of Public Works did not identify a preferred site to build the new landfill. The agency was fined US$7,250 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Dec. 31: Department of Public Works did not submit required documents to the Guam Environmental Protection Agency. The documents were to outline compliance requirements such as safety procedures that are necessary to follow when operating the Ordot dump.

Jan. 11, 2006: Department of Public Works was supposed to have advertised bids for Ordot closure plans and specifications. Public Works Director Larry Perez said the agency advertised and asked construction companies to submit letters of interest. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that advertisement did not meet the specifications laid out in the consent decree.

Jan. 29: Department of public works missed the extended deadline to submit compliance requirements with Guam Environmental Protection Agency that were previously due on Dec. 31, 2005.

Feb. 6: An application to permit a private contractor to operate the Ordot dump for purpose of closure was supposed to have been submitted to Guam Environmental Protection Agency by Department of Public Works. Public Works was fined about US$10,000.

April 2006: Public Works was to award a construction contract for the closure of Ordot, but so far only the design contract for the closure has been awarded, and several studies related to the closure have been completed.

June 2006: A final plan for the new landfill was to be submitted. A plan was submitted, but it was sent back with changes and recommendations.

September 2006: Guam Environmental Protection Agency was to issue or deny a permit for the new landfill. A permit was requested, but denied, because the government does not own the land for the new landfill.

October 2006: Public Works was to award a construction contract for the new landfill. Department of Public Works Director Perez said this has been delayed because the government does not own the land.

The government of Guam needs to meet these timeline dates to be in compliance with the federal court order:

September 2007: Public Works to begin operations at the new dump.

October 2007: Ordot closes.

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