GWA violating Clean Water Act for 7 years - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GWA violating Clean Water Act for 7 years

by Janjeera Hail

Guam - The Guam Waterworks Authority's violations of the Clean Water Act were the subject of a lengthy court hearing today. The U.S. Department of Justice did some water blasting of its own this morning - during today's quarterly status hearing, officials sounded off violation after violation blasting GWA for its continued failure to complete the last seven items in the stipulated order.

And they're no small items, either.

The Sinajana transmission line, the groundwater chlorination system, drinking water tank assessments - until these projects are completed e.coli and fecal contamination will continue to pose a serious threat to the public water supply.  "We take it very seriously," said Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities. "We agree with them it's urgent. We agreed with them in 2003."

But for seven years, deadlines for completion have come and gone.  GWA's excuse has always been the same: money.  "But what happened in 2007 and 2008. Oil went to $140 a barrel. The Navy doubled their charge to GWA for water. That took $17 million out of GWA's wallet in fiscal years '08 and '09. $17 million that could have gone to start to meet these deadlines," Sanchez detailed.

With last week's $118 million bond issuance, Sanchez says GWA can finally begin to put planning to action. But the DoJ is still concerned they haven't seen any movement on upgrading the island's wastewater system.  Even with the bond, GWA doesn't have the money to pay for it.   According to Sanchez, the agency should wait to see whether the military will make good on the $1.3 billion it promised to go towards local infrastructure.

He continued, "And at least we should allow that process to continue and occur. If they say they're not going to do it then we're going to have to go in a different direction. And to us we would say if you can't put in the money then you can't have the buildup. Because the people of Guam can't afford the buildup. Nor should they. This is the responsibility of the federal government."

For now, GWA has identified $4 million for upgrading the Agana Treatment Plant and according to Sanchez, the DoD has verbally committed to paying $8 million for implementing interim technical solutions that would increase the capacity of the Northern Water Treatment Plant.  The USEPA is requesting that, at the very least, GWA submit to them those plans to bring Guam's wastewater system into compliance with current permits.

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