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U.S. wants costly ‘secondary’ treatment

By Steve Limtiaco HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 6, 2010) - District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood yesterday afternoon toured two of the island's sewage treatment plants, in Dededo and Hagåtña.

The Guam Waterworks Authority (GWA) was sued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2002 for violating the federal Clean Water Act, and a status hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow in the District Court of Guam.

Since the lawsuit was filed, the U.S. EPA last October decided the water agency needs an additional step in the sewage treatment process -- "secondary treatment" that local officials believe is unnecessary and could cost as much as US$300 million to implement.

The federal government and GWA are in the process of negotiating a new settlement agreement, which will create a new list of priority projects to be completed during the next five years.

The water agency already has been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for failing to meet the project deadlines set in a June 2003 consent decree.

The two sides will use information prepared by federal contractor Parker and Ganter (PG) Environmental, which examined the water agency's plans and created a proposed list of nearly 100 improvement projects.

Officials will not release a copy of the proposed settlement agreement.

Plant operations manager David Nelson, who works for GWA contractor Veolia, told the judge the Hagåtña plant used to discharge treated waste into the ocean a couple of hundred feet from the plant, but it now discharges waste 2,500 from the plant. The water there is about 250 feet deep, said Consolidated Commission on Utilities member Joseph Duenas.

The plant discharges as much as 5 million gallons of treated waste into the ocean each day.

After the tour Duenas said, if done properly, the water agency could use an advanced primary sewage treatment process without harming the environment.

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