Drug use in GPA alarming to CCU - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Drug use in GPA alarming to CCU

by Nick Delgado

Guam - Last Friday KUAM News reported that close to 20 employees at the Guam Power Authority tested positive for drugs. Today, we've learned that a staffer at the utility agency tested was arrested on drug charges.

The numbers are alarming, as Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairperson Simon Sanchez said, "We are extremely disappointed that GPA employees and T&D have been found to with fail drug tests." Sanchez says GPA has a major problem on its hands. Out of the nearly 100 employees at GPA's Transmission & Distribution Division that were tested, so far 18 have tested positive with more results pending. At least another dozen who were on leave a couple weeks ago have yet to be tested.

The division is the area responsible for operating and maintaining the facilities that deliver electrical power generated by the power plants to GPA's customers. "When you are working on power lines, you could be killed if you make a mistake or your coworker could be killed or injured if a mistake is made," said Sanchez.

Sources confirm with KUAM News that several veteran employees that tested positive were forced to resign while an apprentice was terminated. Of note is that in certain operations in this GPA division, employees work 24 hours around the clock. But Sanchez maintained, "There can be no excuse."

GPA general manager Joaquin Flores was not available for comment. Instead, KUAM News was referred to assistant GM of operations, Melinda Camacho, who says they have yet to take adverse action. "We are in the process of just following a drug-free workplace policy and as a result of following that process we are dealing with the positive results," she stated. "It's a community-wide problem, so GPA being part of this community of course is affected by the ravages of drug abuse."

Sources tell KUAM News that on the day of the test, drugs and drug paraphernalia were discarded on the Dededo property. However, Camacho says nothing has been reported to management.

KUAM News in the meantime confirmed that GPA meter electrician Benny Chargualaf, 31, was arrested over the weekend. According to court documents, he told police a man had come to his residence demanding payment of money owed to him. Chargualaf told police the man had drugs in his possession and left when officers arrived. The man was located and found with nothing illegal and admitted that he was seeking the repayment of $300 from Chargualaf. 

Officers returned to Chargualaf's Agana Heights residence where they found packets of crystal methamphetamine and a glass pipe in his possession. He was arrested for possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance. KUAM News has confirmed that Chargualaf works at the T&D Division.  

GPA expects the remaining results by the end of the week.

Although KUAM News sources tell us 18 employees tested positive, GPA general manager Joaquin Flores confirmed just before news time 107 employees at T&D were tested, and only six tested positive so far. He says 3 were forced to resign, while one was terminated. He says the two others are eligible for the drug rehabilitation program. Flores says they are waiting results for one more employee. Flores is hoping to one day have a complete zero-tolerance drug policy as part of GPA's efforts eradicate drugs in the agency.

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