AG: Ordot Dump case in US Supreme Court will have national implications

Guam Attorney General Leevin Camacho was able to get Guam's case heard in the U.S. Supreme Court. (PNC photo)

The Guam Attorney General’s Office is continuing its fight to get the Navy to pay a portion of the funds necessary to clean up the Ordot dump.

The Ordot dump was created by the Navy in the 1940s.

Over the decades, the Navy used the dump to discard munitions and other toxic waste.

The dump was handed over to the government of Guam in the 1970s and closed in 2016.

GovGuam has tried for years to get the Navy to pay a portion of the funds needed to clean up the site.

The cost of cleaning up the Ordot Dump is estimated to be about $160 million.

In 2017, GovGuam sued the Navy, naming it as a “potential responsible party.”

GovGuam asked the courts to hold the Navy liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, also known as CERCLA.

Although GovGuam initially won its case, it lost when the Navy appealed in February of last year.

The Court of Appeals cited the 2004 Consent Decree that Guam entered into with the U.S. EPA under the Clean Water Act.

The court decided that the Consent Decree started a 10-year countdown for a lawsuit to be filed.

The Court said that GovGuam should have filed its lawsuit…no later than 2007.

Last month, Guam Attorney General Leevin Camacho was able to get Guam’s case heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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“We’ve put it out that less than 1% of cases are accepted by the Supreme Court of the United States. This really was a long shot. But the stakes are extremely high for Guam. $160 million for our island, that’s money that can be spent for pandemic relief and a lot of other purposes. It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to take this route. If the Navy were to say, ‘Fine, let’s just figure out what our contributions are..and let’s figure out a way to calculate it, and let’s pay our damages,’ we wouldn’t have had to take this case to the Supreme Court of the United States. But at this point, they haven’t been willing, or paid any of the cleanup costs for Ordot,” the Guam AG said.

Camacho told Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo Thursday morning that the outcome of this case could affect jurisdictions across the country.

In particular, Camacho questions why the U.S. EPA brought in the initial consent decree in 2004 under the Clean Water Act and not CERCLA.

“I think that there’s some information coming to light that’s going to basically say we shouldn’t accidentally have waived our right to file this case to get contributions. And pointing out that U.S. EPA could’ve actually filed this as a CERCLA case originally, and brought the parties in, at that point, to figure out who should share what. But they did they not? So there are some unique issues that we bring to the table. Part of the reason why the Supreme Court accepted our case is because different circuits across the country have had different rulings on whether or not a Clean Water Act decree triggers your time to file a CERCLA case, so this will have national implications…with the ultimate decision,” Camacho said.

Camacho said that Guam’s representatives in the states expect to make their oral arguments by mid-to-late April.