by Krystal Paco
Guam - After almost a decade, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with taking action against Joseph Taitano. In 2004 Taitano was first issued a notice of violation for running an illegal dump on his property in Yigo. The Guam EPA is moving to force Taitano to clean up his act.
It was seven years ago the Guam EPA issued its first notice of violation against Taitano. He was caught backfilling an old quarry on his lot with construction debris, metallic waste, junk vehicles and parts, white goods as well as green waste. Of critical concern to the EPA is that Taitano's land sits over the island's northern aquifer a main source of the island's drinking water.
During last night's hearing, GEPA environmental specialist Don Quinata and administrator Ivan Quintata gave the board a chronology of events, from what transpired since the NOV was issued and why it's taken all these years to get to this point. GEPA representative assistant attorney general William Bischoff said, "He filed his notice of appeal to the board before there was even a fine imposed. I think it was his intention, his desire, to roll this into one big hearing, one appeal where we actually present the evidence and then request a fine of the board."
Taitano wasn't present to share his side of the story and neither was his attorney, Curtis Van De Veld. Van De Veld today says he and his client weren't properly notified of the special meeting, saying, "They sent me an e-mail from the secretary to the director of GEPA. Well, that's not the notice that's required under the law."
Despite their no show the board has overseen Guam EPA's proposed corrective action plan that orders Taitano install two groundwater monitoring wells, sample the wells semi-annually, install chain-link fencing around the perimeter of the quarry, and submit an adjusted penalty of $312,000 within 60 calendar days. The maximum he could have been assessed was $2.3 million. The fine doesn't include how much GovGuam spent last year when the illegal dump caught fire, and a state of emergency was declared.
"What the agency is seeking is actually for the last violations, $1,000 per violation per day from September 26, 2008 through March 3, 2009," Bischoff continued. "The reason why the agency is asking for the violations for that time frame because we are aware there was some procedural snafu in this case and that Mr. Taitano has a motion filed to have the case dismissed because of something that happened after March 2009. So to be on the safe side, what the agency is requesting is that the fines be imposed for the timeframe before that potential procedural snafu took place."
Van De Veld says his client has already been working to right the wrongs of his past; unfortunately he doesn't have the documents to prove it as his house was destroyed by arson on Thanksgiving Day. Van De Veld is unsure if his client will be able to recover the records but upholds that the case be dismissed. "Then we had the change in administration and with change in administration nothing happens until we get a notice about a hearing in August, so over seven and half months go by and finally they want to do something again. All of this delay has worked to the prejudice of Mr. Taitano," he said.
Taitano has an opportunity to appeal the proposed penalties.
Van De Veld doesn't believe last night's actions can be construed as proper, because the board failed to properly notify his client of the special meeting.