Blame game ignites over Yigo fire - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Blame game ignites over Yigo fire

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - For nearly two weeks an illegal dump in Yigo has spewed smoke as a fire burns deep with in the pit.  This morning local officials met to discuss the progress in capping the fire.

Civil Defense - the Government of Guam entity was put in charge of the crisis after Governor Felix Camacho declared a state of disaster emergency - says they have smothered 70% of the fire.  The cost to do so - $96,000 worth of local government funds.  The money was spent providing temporary shelter to residents, renting heaving equipment and contracting industrial hygienist consultants.

And while Civil Defense Spokesperson Lesley Leon Guerrero says the fire should be completely out with in the week, the problem should have been stamped out a long time ago, according to the Guam Environmental Protection Agency.  "That another action the landowner is going to have to answer to because you have a burning fire at an illegal pit that wasn't even supposed to be operating in the first place," said Guam EPA spokesman Gerry Cruz.

Cruz says the dump's owner, Joseph Taitano, has been cited in the past.  "He's been given notice of violation so many times cease and desist been caught allowing the dump to be used," he noted.  Cruz says a year ago Taitano was supposed to submit a remediation plan to comply with Guam EPA regulations, explaining, "The attorney general - it's in their court.  We gave them all the documents, and according to the court order the respondent is supposed to submit a remedial plan to EPA, but through the AG's Office."

When asked if the Guam EPA ever checked with the AG to make sure they received it, Cruz said, "Well, we followed up, but no response." 

He blames personnel shifts at the Attorney General's Office for the lack of enforcement, saying, "Where it's at, I'm not too sure, but on our part we submitted documents and complied with what it supposed to be done with this case."

The AG's Office maintains that it has made numerous follow-ups with the Guam EPA and Administrator Lorilee Crisostomo regarding the status of this matter and it has yet to receive any feedback from the agency.

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