AG sues contractors for environmental damage to Marbo Cave and Sasayan Valley

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Marbo Cave's freshwater pool is overrun by stormwater and mud. (Viewer submitted photo)

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has filed a complaint against the owner and construction company responsible for the environmental damage to Sasayan Valley.

In its complaint, the OAG has asked the court to award actual damages and punitive damages against Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO-LG) and Samsung E&C America for damaging Guam’s natural resources and creating a public nuisance. This is the first action of its kind taken in recent history by the OAG.

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“In continuing to deliver on our promise to better protect our environment, today we have taken action to hold those who harm Guam’s natural resources accountable,” said Attorney General Leevin T. Camacho.

The complaint alleges the defendants knew the Project site was located, and remains, within the groundwater recharge area of Guam’s aquifer and watershed area that supplies 80% of the island’s drinking water.

Permits issued by the Department of Public Works (DPW) and Guam Environmental Protection Agency (GEPA) required the defendants to submit an approved Erosion and Sediment Control Plan (E&SC Plan) which contained erosion control measures, including the
construction of five ponding basins and the implementation of other measures, before starting earthwork activities.

Roughly two weeks ago, GEPA responded to a complaint alleging the discharge of runoff from the Project site. GEPA representatives observed that, despite earthwork activities being well underway, the defendants had failed to fully implement the erosion control measures they agreed to take under the E&SC Plan.

As a result of defendants’ failures, there was significant discharge of runoff and sediment from the Project site onto adjoining properties, including a freshwater cave, as well as
into the ocean.

GEPA issued a Notice of Violation to Samsung E&C America for violating the terms of its E&SC Plan. The agency then issued a proposed penalty order amounting to $125,000, the maximum fine that can be assessed under Guam regulations, although fines for the total amount of violations totaled approximately $18 Million.

“When the administrative remedies available to GEPA may not be enough to make up for the harm that’s been done, we will partner with them to file suit and protect the invaluable resources of our island,” said Attorney General Camacho.

The amount of damages available under this lawsuit are not limited by statute.

GEPA Administrator Walter Leon Guerrero said, “We are pleased with AG Leevin Camacho and his decision to file suit against those responsible for causing the devastation at Marbo. AG Camacho and his office have a proven track record in providing justice to our island, and given his office’s success with the Ordot Dump case, the recent opioid settlement, and the work that continues with the PFAS multi-district litigation, our Agency is confident in his advocacy toward protecting human and environmental health.”

After being served a copy of the complaint, the defendants will have 20 days after to
respond to the OAG’s suit. Deputy Attorney General Fred Nishihira and Assistant Attorney General Joseph Perez are handling this matter on behalf of the OAG.

(AG Release)

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