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USEPA comments on the Final EIS

by Michele Catahay

Guam - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes that some concerns noted in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement have been addressed in the Final EIS. Despite improvements to the document, more work needs to be done to ensure environmental concerns are properly addressed.

It was several months ago when the US Environmental Protection Agency had said the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the U.S. Marines' relocation was "environmentally unsatisfactory". Now after the release of the Final EIS and talks with the Department of Defense on these issues, USEPA's Jared Blumenfeld says based on his review there are still major concerns that need to be addressed.

He says if mitigation efforts promised in the EIS are successfully implemented, the project will avoid negative impacts to health and environment. USEPA says in order for the implementation to be successful, DOD must commit to three major mitigation measures: (1) seek funding for drinking water and wastewater system infrastructure; (2) manage construction and the arrival of military personnel to not cause significant environmental impacts or existing infrastructure limitations through adaptive program management; and (3) undertake an additional assessment of coral at Apra Harbor.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy who manages environmental programs Donald Schregardus is currently on island and he says he will work closely with agencies to ensure these issues are addressed.  "I'm pleased. We've put a lot of effort. We've worked with EPA and NOAA and the Department of the Interior on improving the document, so I'm glad they've recognized that. We, especially with the Department of Navy, remain committed to meeting our requirements, investing in the sewer and water system, the road systems and meeting the cultural concerns on the island, as well," he said.

To date, no funding has been secured to upgrade to the drinking water and wastewater system improvements, USEPA says DOD needs to commit to seeking much needed funding and come up with a plan to pursue an additional $700 million for upgrades. Upgrades are needed for upgrades to the North District and Hagatna Wastewater Treatment Plant.

"We recognized that there are significant challenges with infrastructure on the island. We're committed to ensuring that the Department of Defense makes its commitments, but does everything in its power to help Guam and the federal government makes its commitment on infrastructure and other needs here on the island of Guam," Shregardus added.

The EPA also says the record of decision should clarify who decision makers are, whom the Environmental Council is advising and the process for making decisions when it comes to these impacts. When it comes to emissions, EPA says the Department of Defense must commit to analyzing diesel before construction activities are underway. It is expected that the buildup will increase emissions in a medically underserved community.

The EPA also recommends for DOD to commit to coordination with the Guam Power Authority. With these issues outlined as part of comments submitted from the USEPA, the federal agency says it will continue working with DOD, the Government of Guam and other federal agencies to ensure the environmental acceptability of the project.

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