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What's next for GWA?

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by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood held the third status hearing for Guam Waterworks Authority and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this morning, which allowed the former agency to provide an update on where it stands with regards to the stipulated order. Since the last status hearing Judge Gatewood went on a tour of six sites with GWA to better understand the challenges the utility agency is facing at its facilities. 

On March 25 the feds sent GWA a draft settlement document, which GWA is asking for more time to respond to.   

"There's a hundred and twenty things in the proposed consent decree," said Simon Sanchez.  "There were sixty things in the stipulated order, there's hundreds of projects in the master plan totaling $900 million dollars - there's the buildup that might cost one and a quarter billion - there's a lot to do."  The chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities listed a laundry list of projects GWA is tackling after the third status hearing with the USEPA this afternoon before the chief judge.

"GWA has a range of challenges - technical issues, financial, capacity issues, lots of challenges out there, but lots of solutions also," he noted.

Barry Pollock works for the USEPA's Region XI Office as an environmental engineer. USEPA representatives pointed out that must work with USEPA on fulfilling the requirements of the stipulated order that will allow GWA to become fully compliant with the Safe Water Drinking Act in the long-run.  But to move forward, GGWA gwa must put forth its response to USEPA in the form of a partial consent decree that realistically spells out GWA's timelines for achieving a number of projects.

He told KUAM News, "It's like - how do you eat an elephant? Well, you eat them one piece at a time and which is more important? There all important, but the most important thing is making sure that people have clean water."

The projects range from GWA implementing secondary treatment across the board, staying in compliance with the limit for effluent discharge at the Northern Treatment Plant, keeping tabs on enforcing the fats oils and grease problems (which have led to 50% of the sewage problems), and inspecting the 20- to 30-year-old drinking water supply tanks as well as implementing the groundwater chlorination system at the Northern District Sewage Treatment Plant and Agana Sewage Treatment Plant.  Since the last hearing GWA was fined $65,000 for the ground water chlorination system, improving the water meters and the Sinajana water transmission.

Said Sanchez, "We developed the first stipulated order together and we are confident we will develop the consent decree. What's nice about the consent decree is that the stipulated order they filed a complaint and the court ordered us to act, but now we've matured on how we can work together with USEPA on the next step."

As GWA determines the scope of its financial technical and professional resources, Sanchez adds that he will have meetings with the Department of Defense at the end of the month, which are critical in determining funding the necessary capitol improvement projects moving forward. Nonetheless, Judge Gatewood has said that it is critical that GWA develop a status plan that considers the future of the island and its needs both with and without the buildup.

"It's not just the DoD's responsibility in our view, it's fed governments responsibility of which the DoD plays a major role, but as they say the federal family needs to step up, the congress, the president, if this is going to be done right for Guam," Sanchez said.

Chief Judge Tydingco-Gatewood scheduled the next status hearing for August 4th at 9am. In the meantime, GWA's attorney Sam Taylor says that he expects to provide a response to the consent decree in the next two months.

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