Coast Guard completes bad soil removal - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Coast Guard completes bad soil removal

by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Merizo fisherman are hoping island residents will catch on to the good news that a remediation project that got underway several years ago is nearing completion.  "I give my friends fish and some people come to my house and buy fish," said Jesus Aguon Cruz. He used to reel in big business, but when word got out, he says, "We discovered PCB in the fish off Cocos Island about six years ago." 

Things began to sink. He said, "I was losing customer sand my friends don't want to get fish from me. My family are scared to eat fish."

Several people attended last night's meeting at the Merizo Community Center getting the latest update from the Guam Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard regarding a cleanup project that began in 2005. It was at that time a fish advisory was issued after samples taken of fish around Cocos Island and the lagoon detected high levels of PCB. The source of the contamination?  A former Coast Guard station that operated on Cocos Island from 1944 to 1963.

"This is the fourth public meeting that we've held here," said Dr. Dennis Mead, an environmental specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard's Civil Engineering Unit based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. As part of the remediation project more than 400 cubic yards of contaminated soil was removed and shipped to the state of Nevada for disposal.

He said, "Currently we know of no other contaminated areas on the island."

But what about in the ocean? Dr. Mead says the results that once came back positive for high levels of PCB have fallen steadily. "Our data indicates that all the fish caught outside the reef are area clean very low in PCB levels, and most of them have even non detectable levels of PCBs within the lagoon itself, as long as the fish were over 200 yards off shore the lagoon side of the island we're finding very low level of PCBs in the fish. I would have know problems eating those fish myself."

For fishermen like Cruz, he's hooked.  "I'm satisfied," he said

The Coast Guard will be monitoring the Cocos Island area for another year.

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