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EPA has concerns with island utilities

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Although the military and the head of the islands' utility agencies signed a memorandum of understanding Friday to work together in meeting the needs of both the military and civilian community that will be impacted by the military buildup. The US Environmental Protection Agency has quite a number of concerns it's listed in its status report filed with the District Court of Guam.

Those concerns specifically relate to the ongoing stipulated order with the Guam Waterworks Authority.  The report was submitted in the context of the proposed military build-up and the Department of Defense's release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement due to be made public on July 28, 2010.

The US EPA cited concerns about Younex plans to construct the Ukudu workforce village housing near the Northern District Waste Water Treatment Plant. The project will be built in 2,000 person increments until its reaches its anticipated 18,000 occupancy.  According to court documents the project would generate wastewater flow beyond what the Northern District WWTP is permitted. "EPA is concerned that any additional flows to the Northern District WWTP will adversely impact effluent quality from the WWTP, which is already in ongoing violation of its NDPES permit's effluent limits," court documents stated.

The documents further cited the Department of the Navy will conduct a study to analyze all treatment processes at the Northern District WWTP. The study should be completed by the end of November.

The status report also noted the pressure the new village would place on the island's drinking water system. The EPA believes (1) GWA has very limited or no capacity to provide additional drinking water at this time; and (2) GWA lacks transmission capacity to transport drinking water even it were available. EPA believes that should these issues not be addressed it could result in water shortages and low water pressure in the surrounding water service areas, including parts of Upper Tamuning, Upper and Lower Tumon, Dededo, Harmon and other areas.

The federal government's status report also provided a catalog of other waste water violations:

  • In the second quarter of 2010, GWA reported five Sanity Sewer Overflows (SSO's) and a total of 502,800 gallons of sewage spilled, including a 500,000 gallon spill from GWA's Umatac-Merizo WWTP.
  • At Agana WWTP GWA exceeded the monthly average effluent limit for total suspended solids in March 2010
  • Agat-Santa Rita WWTP: in March 2010 inspectors found evidence of improper solid waste management and bypass of waste water leading to the discharge of waste water solids into the ocean.

The federal government would also like assurances from the Consolidated Commission on Utilities that it will use its best efforts in the near term to hire a full time and qualified General Manager of the Guam Waterworks Authority. Former General Manager Dr. Leonard Olive resigned last month.

In terms of the new settlement agreement that's currently in negotiations between the federal government and GWA, according to the status report the parties have not made any progress because GWA has failed to provide a written response to the United States' draft settlement agreement.

The Guam Waterworks meanwhile is scheduled to submit its status report by Wednesday. The next quarterly status hearing is scheduled for August 4.

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