Future of NOV for Yigo dump to be decided - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Future of NOV for Yigo dump to be decided

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - It seems the Guam Environmental Protection Agency hasn't gotten anywhere with a notice of violation issued to Joseph Taitano back in 2004, and on Thursday during a special board meeting members will decide whether they'll keep it that way or finally do something about it. Here's a look back at the history of an illegal dump that sits right over the northern aquifer - Guam's main source of drinking water.

The NOV was issued against Taitano for running an illegal dump in Yigo, as in 2007 he was still running the illegal operation. Matter of fact Guam EPA took several pictures as evidence clearly showing Taitano was backfilling an old quarry with green wastes, white goods, junk vehicles and parts, metallic waste as well as construction and demolition debris. Four years after that NOV was issued in January 2008 our KUAM reporter at the time and videographer caught the illegal dump operation still in full swing.

Joseph Taitano: I'm Joseph Taitano

Ronna Sweeney (KUAM): But you don't know what's happening here?

Joseph: What do you think?

Ronna: It looks like he's dumping to me

Joseph: Yeah, that's what it looks like

Ronna: Do you know what he's dumping

Joseph: I don't know. You see for yourself

Ronna: Are you running an illegal dumpsite operation out here?

Joseph: I don't know ma'am

Nine months after that interview and because of an anonymous tip the agency received that construction debris from a project at the Guam International Airport was being dumped there, Guam EPA investigators in September 2008 went back to Taitano's dump and took additional pictures clearly showing how the illegal dump was allowed to grow over the years and more importantly right over the northern aquifer Guam's main source of drinking water.

Tammy Anderson said, "Guam Epa is really concerned about any type of illegal dumping in the northern part of the island because its made up of limestone and water travels right through limestone and that's our drinking source if you contaminate the northern lens there's no telling what can happen."

Fast forward....now six years after the notice of violation was issued. Guam EPA was back at the illegal dumpsite and they were joined by the Guam Fire Department and Guam Homeland Security to respond to a deep-seeded dump fire. The fumes and concern over air quality prompted Yigo mayor Robert Lizama to call on then governor at the time Felix Camacho to declare a state of emergency.

The mayor said, "With the heavy smoke that's happening there my people are getting irritated and they're being inconvenienced."

That state of emergency was declared and for nearly two weeks the illegal dump fire continued to burn, forcing nearby residents to be evacuated. And taxpayers dollars footing the bill to handle the crisis. Guam EPA's spokesperson at the time Gerry Cruz warned of further action. "That another action the land owners is going to have to answer to, because you have burning fire at an illegal pit that wasn't even supposed to be operating in the first place," he said.

Throughout 2010 talks were tabled, were behind closed doors and then turned to discussion of a settlement between GovGuam and Taitano. Liz Cruz was the acting administrator of Guam EPA in August 2010. "We were talking about some kind of parameter to prevent people from going there was as well as possibly some kind of notice in the paper telling people this is not a permitted hardfill site do not go here under out regulations if we find or know about the individuals that do dump there we will be able to do litigation against them," she said.

It's now seven years after the notice of violation was issued against Taitano. Tammy Jo Anderson Taft is back at Guam EPA as its spokesperson. This was her comment in September. "With the Taitano case we're still working on that case going through the process of a notice of violation right now," she said.

A process that's taken almost a decade. The Guam EPA this Thursday will hold a special hearing at 5:30pm to discuss the appeal Taitano has filed against that NOV first issued back in 2004.

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