Guam Attorney General Sues U.S. Navy For Costs To Close Ordot Dump

Superfund law means Navy is liable for clean-up, suit alleges

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 7, 2017) – It took about three years, but the island's attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the Navy over the closure of Ordot dump and future costs.

Gov. Eddie Calvo, during his February 2014 State of the Island Address, said suing the federal government because of the dump was one of his 10 goals for that year.

Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson recently authorized the suit on behalf of the Territory of Guam against the U.S. Department of the Navy, seeking to declare the Navy liable for environmental response costs incurred by the government of Guam in closing the dump, and for future environmental-related costs, a release from the AG's office states.

“I’m very confident in our success in this lawsuit," Barrett-Anderson said Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t know how long it will take. But it surely not going to happen in six months.”

The complaint is brought under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980,  which makes a “potential responsible party” liable for remedial action.

The act, also known as Superfund, is a federal law passed in 1980 that gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to respond to the release of hazardous waste. Under the statute, the Defense Department is required to perform remedial and removal actions of contamination left from military munitions and explosives.

In 1988, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined the Navy is a potential responsible party for the contamination found in Ordot dump, the release states. The Navy owned and operated the dump before and after World War II.

"Guam should not be left to shoulder the full financial burden of having closed Ordot dump when it is clear that the United States Navy is also responsible for the environmental condition of the dump,"  Barrett-Anderson said in the release. 

Gov. Eddie Calvo, in his latest State of the Island Address Monday, spoke about the issue.

"Our people should not be treated this way. The federal court has tested all the patience left in the attorney general and I. Hearing after hearing, no matter what we do to make right by our people and their health, the court is unrelenting in sticking it to our people and letting an outside receiver make ridiculous profit at our expense," he said.

Calvo, who years ago planned to sue, said the last straw was when the court instructed the solid waste receiver to break local law.

Calvo said solid waste receiver Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. isn't following local procurement law. The federal court allowed the receiver to purchase new cab-forward trash trucks for the Guam Solid Waste Authority, despite a successful protest and local court victory by Morrico Equipment.

"We are suing the federal government for its responsibility over the true source of contamination of our natural resources. I know one thing is for sure … if we find Agent Orange, other military grade contaminants, and airplanes from the 1940s in the first layer of that dump, it’s going to be very hard for the Justice Department to say that we put those there," Calvo said.

Barrett-Anderson said for the past 10 years Guam has had to pay enormous costs associated with the suit filed by the federal government against Guam to close the Ordot dump, despite the fact the federal government bore liability.

"We have spent more than $200 million thus far, and we expect to continue to incur future costs for post-closure remedies at Ordot. This lawsuit is long overdue,” she said. 

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2017 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment