GEPA urged to prevent further contamination from open burn facility

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Sen. Sabina Perez (PNC file photo)

Senator Sabina Perez has submitted formal comments to the Guam Environmental Protection Agency (GEPA), requesting that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be conducted prior to the consideration of an application for a draft Resource and Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) Permit at Andersen Air Force Base (AAFB), which would continue operations of an Open Burn/Open Detonation unit used to treat hazardous waste, including ammunition and explosives.

The draft RCRA permit states that ‘the nature of OB/OD HW treatment on the EOD Range does not provide for procedures to minimize releases to the atmosphere.’ “This is unacceptable and unconscionable to our community, given the known health impacts and considering cancer is one of the leading causes of death on our island. The proximity of open burn/open detonation pits to one of our prime fishing grounds and farmlands and the migration of aerosolized hazardous chemicals to areas distant from the site carried by wind or water can be a means of toxic exposure to our island community,” said Senator Perez.

In light of nationwide calls to close open burn pits due to alarming rates of health and environmental concerns connected to these sites and the existence of viable alternatives to dispose of energetic wastes, according to the 2019 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Report, Senator Perez urged GEPA to consider the grave urgency of remediation versus continued use and contamination of the environment. Senator Perez added, “any closure and post-closure plans must be stringent enough using the precautionary principle to ensure the site is cleaned up sufficiently.”

Senator Perez stated, “This facility has been in existence since October 30, 1980. However, data on the matter remains vague and the general public has little to no knowledge of its existence or impact. Our community has a right to know of the toxic releases, and an EIS will give our community insight to the overall damage these toxins have had and to move towards creating a healthy environment that sustains us all.”

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