Guam EPA may finally see closure to Taitano dump - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam EPA may finally see closure to Taitano dump

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Almost a decade in the making it appears the Guam Environmental Protection Agency will finally see closure to a case involving a massive illegal dumpsite that sits just above our island's northern aquifer and primary source of freshwater.

It was quite the sight back in 2004 - an old quarry overflowing with trash. From green waste to white goods, to junk vehicles and parts, metallic waste to construction and demolition debris all being backfilled onto a Yigo property owned by Joseph Taitano.

With proof in pictures, the Guam EPA issued many notices of violation to Taitano for operating an illegal dumpsite but it was never enough to get the ball rolling.

That is, until things literally fired up. Back in 2010 it wasn't just the Guam EPA who had to report to the site, but also the Guam Fire Department and Homeland Security for a deep-seeded dump fire on the property.

The fire prompted then-governor Felix Camacho to declare a state of emergency that lasted for nearly two weeks as the illegal dump fire continued to burn, forcing nearby residents to be evacuated and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill to handle the crisis.

Fast forward to today, it's been a start and stop process to close the case.  But as Guam EPA administrator Eric Palacios reports, the Superior Court recently directed the Attorney General's Office to enter into settlement discussions with Taitano.

"I believe its scheduled for the first part of next month. At this point what we're going to do as a government, as a team, is meet obviously ahead of those settlement discussions and map out what our game plan is maybe what our minimum standards would be as far as settling the matter," he said.

But how much will Taitano pay?

"Early on we secured about a $3 million judgment which was eventually vacated by the court we hope that maybe something similar will be reached during these settlement discussions but again that's just half the battle actually collecting on any kind of judgment is going to be an entirely different procedure," he said.

Whatever the fines, Palacios says no amount is greater than protecting the island's natural resources.

"That is paramount. It goes without saying our value is not in issuing fines but obviously when it comes to violations we will seek any legal remedy in the law to hold people accountable," he said.

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