GWA, feds in court over stipulated order - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GWA, feds in court over stipulated order

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by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood held a quarterly status hearing this morning to assess the status of the stipulated order mandating that the Guam Waterworks Authority address the issues of non-compliance and come up with a blueprint for how the agency will meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act and the standards of the USEPA.

GWA General Manager Dr. Leonard Olive said, "EPA and GWA are on the same page and that is good, reliable clean water for the citizens of Guam and I feel very optimistic that we are taking a major step in that direction."  Olive says residents can be assured that GWA will now collaborate with the USEPA to come up with a list of priority projects to be implemented by the agency so that it can address the repeated public health concerns.

The utility agency has been cited and federally fined for problems with turbidity and the condition of its tanks and installation of its chlorination system, excessive boil water notices from positive e.coli results, sewage overflow problems at its waste water treatment plants and broken water meters.  

But GWA management says they anticipate that they will be ale to sell total of $118 million in bond money by March.  "We have a major bond issuance going forward beginning this quarter that will kickstart a whole new round of capital improvement projects and like I say we are headed towards a situation where we can serve that water reliably and dependably," Olive said.

This will allow it to implement the most immediate capital improvement projects to prepare the islands infrastructure for a population boom of up to 80,000 people by 2014 as a result of the military buildup. 

While GWA is optimistic about its future, getting adequate funding and failure to predict how much its projects will cost has been an issue in the past the agency, which has been fined $300,000 by the feds for failing to meet deadlines for past projects, however the agency says it has made strides and improvements since June 2003 when it first entered into the stipulated order with the United States.

"The money is better used here in Guam trying to improve the water system than it is sitting in the federal coffers," he said.

GWA admitted that its master plan needs to be adjusted, and GWA's attorney Sam Taylor called the plan a living breathing document arguing that a lot of how it will need to be amended will come from DoD, which he says still needs to put forth the specifics in order to estimate total costs for its future CIPs. However, Taylor confirmed that GWA is on target for projects like the Northern District Agana Sewage Plant upgrades, which he says will be completed by the end of this January.

He also said that GWA is in Phase II of the water storage tank assessment status evaluation process.  "Our next step is we will have a quarterly status report every three months. The Judge will submit an order pretty soon and that is coming out pretty soon. It will tell us the date and time and method of submitting a compliance status report," he said.

Judge Gatewood will issue an order in the next few days advising USEPA and Guam Waterworks Authority to collaborate on a roadmap or priority projects moving forward. The next hearing will take place on April 7 at 9am.

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