Guam – Money was the focus of the Quarterly Status hearing in District Court Wednesday over the Guam Waterworks ongoing attempts to come into compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act.
District Court Judge Francis Tydingco-Gatewood set the tone at the start of the hearing by saying “In the end its all about the money.”
GWA and U.S. EPA traded charges in court briefs leading up to Wednesday’s hearing over GWA lack of compliance with the 7 outstanding issues in the Stipulated Order, over the impact of the Ukudu Workforce Village on the Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant [NWWTP] and over where the money will come from to pay for all the upgrades that are needed.
During Wednesday’s Status hearing District Court Judge Tydingco-Gatewood reviewed each of the 7 outstanding violations one at a time. From the delays over providing for adequate ground water chlorination, to the still incomplete Sinajana water transmission line and GWA’s failure to assess and replace its aging drinking water tanks. GWA assured the court in each of these cases that money from last week’s successful bond sale would provide the improvements needed to satisfy these outstanding violations.
But beyond those issues are the high cost fixes needed for Guam’s wastewater treatment plants.
In Court Wednesday, U.S. EPA said a study they commission has estimated that it will take $1.3 billion dollars to bring the island’s water and wastewater systems into compliance with the Clean Water Act. But U.S. EPA argued that the exact source of that funding is still not clear.
The Japanese Government has agreed to provide $740 million but negotiations are ongoing over whether that will be a loan or a grant. And the Government of Japan won’t approve the budget containing those funds until April of next year.
Where the remaining $560 million of the $1.3 billion will come from, has not yet been worked out. And that is the major issue.
“There is no U.S. money that has been specifically identified,” said the Assistant Director of the U.S. EPA’s Water Division, Nancy Woo.
Speaking from San Francisco via a video-conference line, Woo said “We’re all very hopeful,” but “there is no identifiable source of funding for that outstanding balance.”
However CCU Chairman Simon Sanchez expressed more confidence in the commitments made by the Department of Defense that the money will be found, and that Guam residents will not have to foot the bill.
He told PNC News, “we are a lot more confident then they are a lot more confident than they are that this money is real and is going to happen.”
Sanchez told the court that “DoD has said, on the record, in the Record of Decision, that $1.3 million needs to be secured over the next 5 years” and they have committed to get that money and ensuring that Guam residents will not have to provide it.