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Meetings focus on improving water systems

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Meetings continued today between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense and the Government of Guam to ensure the island's environmental concerns are addressed for the impending military buildup.

Earlier this week we told you about USEPA's Water Division Associate Director Nancy Woo and Pacific Islands Office Manager John McCaroll on island meeting with local and federal officials to address the federal agency's concerns with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  Last month the USEPA, like Guam residents and GovGuam agencies submitted their comments on the DEIS. 

Giving it one of the worst rating its could give, the USEPA called the document "Environmentally Unsatisfactory" for failing to specifically address the impacts  to water, wastewater and the island's coral reefs that would be impacted from the military's plans for dredging in Apra Harbor.  Today's focus of discussions centered around wastewater.

Guam EPA Spokesperson Gerry Cruz said, "Of course, there's issue with capacity and the growth of Guam.  That's going to change how much wastewater can be processed at both the northern plant and the Agana plant, so the discussion are going back and forth especially on planning and some of the issues of funding."

And funding is a big issue taking into consideration the USEPA's recent recommendation for GWA to upgrade all its wastewater treatment plants to secondary treatment, which would cost at least $300 million, something GovGuam doesn't currently have and the DEIS doesn't address.  However, according to CCU chairperson Simon Sanchez, the dialogue over the last several days between all those involved ranging from the DoD, the Guam EPA, USEPA, GWA and the military has been fruitful.

He said, "It's great to have USEPA in the room now because now that they're engaged in the Draft EIS; they're also hearing the solutions that are emerging since the Draft EIS was done."

McCaroll also remains optimistic, saying, "The DoD is taking our comments and everybody else's comments into account before they revised their EIS, and, in fact, some of the discussions we're having right now in fact may have an impact in terms of what will end up in the EIS."

The record of decision on the military buildup is expected sometime this summer.

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