4 bills introduced to protect Guam’s water supply

Senator Regine Biscoe-Lee, a Democrat, is chairperson of the Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs. She says she hopes the next Congressman addresses Guam's relationship with the military, environmental issues and the island's political status. (PNC file photo)

Senator Regine Biscoe Lee has introduced four bills that seek to protect the island’s aquifer and water supply.

The suite of four bills authored by the Democrat lawmaker will shield the aquifer from contaminants and sets in motion a new, coordinated effort to sustain the water source for 80 percent of Guam.

The bills also call for greater protections for the Northern Guam Lens Aquifer (NGLA), one of the island’s most precious natural resources.

“This legislative agenda is all about securing our environment and economy both today and tomorrow,” Senator Lee said. “A strong future requires a protected aquifer. It has sustained lives and livelihoods for centuries, and these bills tackle a host of issues that threaten the viability of this entrusted resource. Once it’s lost, it cannot be replaced.”

Bill 404-35 (COR) prohibits any further use of septic tanks on certain lots located in the groundwater protection zone. According to the bill, residential septic systems pose a threat to the Groundwater Protection Zone (GPZ) of the Northern Guam Lens Aquifer (NGLA). Studies show these tanks leak nitrates, a federally-regulated contaminant that poses health risks to vulnerable groups like pregnant women and infants. The measure restricts the allowance of septic tanks over the NGLA to properties that are half an acre or more.

Bill 405-35 establishes a task force to explore the feasibility of creating a groundwater conservation area on select government of Guam properties that overlies a portion of the northern Guam lens aquifer. Under this bill, no production wells shall be shall be installed and no development shall occur on the groundwater conservation area. Policies resulting from this group’s work could lead to the creation of new public parks, conservation areas, and new research programs.

Bill 406-35 (COR) makes any Chamorro Land Trust Commission lease subject to complete defeasance for illegal dumping, and to further directing the CLTC to adopt rules and regulations regarding this. According to the bill, illegal dumping constitutes a serious threat to the environment, specifically to the island’s groundwater supply. Specifically, the unauthorized disposal of waste greatly increases the chance that surface pollutants will seep through Guam’s porous limestone bedrock and enter the groundwater below. This bill will lead to the regular inspection of Chamorro Land Trust properties for illegal dumping and can increase capacity and revenue at the agency as well as eliminate sources of contaminants for the NGLA.

The fourth bill introduced by the senator, Bill 407-35 (COR), requires the CLTC to obtain a utility verification from the Guam Waterworks Authority and the Guam Power Authority for any residential or agriculture lot it plans to lease prior to executing any such lease. Over the years, lessees have inadvertently entered into long-term agreements without first knowing the full cost of connecting to power and water infrastructure. While no leases will be denied solely because utilities are not established, codifying this consumer protection ensures all of the CLTC’s 99-year-long agreements will only be executed after fully informing lessees about this financial cost.

In a news conference Thursday morning introducing the bills, Sen. Biscoe-Lee said these four bills recognize that water is life and that we need to protect our water source.

“That’s why we’re taking this multi approach to attempt to do that. The Northern Guam Lens Aquifer contains the healthiest and most valuable groundwater for our island,” the senator stressed.

She added: “Eighty percent of our water source is contained here and protecting this is the main aim of this suite of bills. We need to take every action to protect this very important resource.”