DOD contractor fined $100K by Guam EPA - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOD contractor fined $100K by Guam EPA

Posted: Aug 09, 2018 4:54 PM Updated:

A Department of Defense contractor has been fined $100,000 by Guam EPA for leaking over 110 gallons of jet fuel and contaminated water in Harmon and Agana Heights.

The leak – which went unreported by the company for several months – resulted in the removal of 500 tons of contaminated soil.

NOVA-UCCo, a federal contractor hired to construct a new fuel pipeline from Sasa Valley fuel farm to Andersen Air Force base, reached a settlement resolution with GEPA and was ultimately fined $99,500 by the agency.

GEPA had initially assessed a $350,000 fine against the company, however the company appealed the fine and negotiated it down, according to GEPA documents.

“If I’m a contractor and I’m looking at this story, it does serve as an example of what happens when you don’t follow local or federal statutes,” GEPA acting deputy Nic Lee told KUAM News.

According to GEPA documents obtained by Freedom of Information Act request, NOVA discharged over 110 gallons of jet fuel and contaminated water during a five-month period from May to October 2017.

However, the company did not report the incident until November of 2017. An assessment on the spill wasn’t done until December, at which time GEPA concluded NOVA would be assessed penalties and be held responsible for clean up efforts.

Guam law says GEPA must be notified no later than 24-hours after a spill, leak or discharge of solid waste.

Cleanup and assessment was delayed because in one of the areas affected by the spill, US Fish and Wildlife determined endangered snails were present. This meant cleanup efforts had to be halted until the snails left the area.

NOVA was hired by DOD for a $52 million project to improve and expand the fuel pipeline in anticipation of the impending military buildup on Guam. The company is part of Quanta Services, a global construction and engineering firm worth an estimated $7.5 billion.

“When the public looks at what this company is worth and they look at the fines, it may not add up, but we’re following the law here and what we’re able to hand down,” Lee said.

Sabina Perez, a senatorial candidate with Prutehi Litekyan, a group that opposes the military buildup on Guam, wondered if the fine assessed by GEPA was a slap on the wrist for a company as big as NOVA.

“Considering the company is a $7 billion company, I’m wondering if there was proper cleanup was being done and if this is a sufficient fine for the company,” Perez said.

A settlement agreement between NOVA and GEPA awaits NOVA’s final signature. One of the terms of the agreement is that NOVA will not have to admit it was guilty of environmental violations.

With the military buildup already underway, Lee said GEPA is one of the few GovGuam entities that has enforcement authority over military buildup projects, but with only 55 employees, the question will be – Does Guam EPA have the money to get enough boots on the ground to protect paradise?

“They need more funding as far as enforcement goes,” Perez said.

Lee said GEPA continues to get a grip on the massive projects the agency will be responsible for regulating during the military buildup, and this fine should serve as a warning that DOD and contractors working on Guam should take the agency seriously.

“If they don’t, they should be taking us seriously, absolutely,” Lee said.

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