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Feds unhappy with EPA's money management

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is not happy about how the Guam EPA is handling its funds, and the issue could result in the agency losing sorely needed federal dollars.  A financial mess is what a recent report from the USEPA says about its counterpart in the local government.

It's a report that says Guam EP's financial mismanagement has hurt the agency's ability to protect human health and the environment.

In its Fiscal Year 2009 end of year program review, the USEPA noted that the number of staffers at the Guam EPA has increased by almost 20% in the past three years without a corresponding increase in revenues. Among the discrepancies, the report states that for the first time in history, GEPA failed to inform the community whether beaches are safe to swim, and that GEPA did not update its drinking water regulations or water quality standards.

It also states that GEPA did not maintain adequate oversight of development projects to protect near shore water quality. The report further notes that recent financial problems experienced by GEPA have put its current level of federal funding at risk. Those problems for GEPA include inadequate planning and budgeting caused by a lack of coordination with the Bureau of Budget & Management Research and the UESPA.

The report also points out that the financial problems come at a time when workloads at GEPA are increasing significantly due to the military buildup, and that if the deficiencies are not corrected then GEPA will have major challenges in meeting timelines for the population growth.

While the report states that the financial crisis is also resulting in a loss of employees, the feds did make several recommendations to help improve the situation. Such as implementing an annual operating budget, building a closer relationship with BBMR and the USEPA, increasing and developing more appropriate fee structures, and avoid hiring additional staff without specific notice or approval.

Despite the challenges, the report did commend GEPA for other projects such as its current involvement to close the Ordot Dump and open a new landfill at Layon.

Guam EPA Spokesperson Gerry Cruz declined comment, only saying that Administrator Lorilee Crisostomo is currently off-island, and that they are currently reviewing the report. However the governor's deputy chief of staff Shawn Gumataotao did tell KUAM News that they are working with the USPEA officials currently on island to resolve the financial concerns.

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