A roadblock was hit in the fight against the military’s open burn and detonation pit.
After a 7 month long legal battle, Guam’s District Court dismissed Prutehi Litekyan’s lawsuit against the Air Force. Now, all eyes are on Guam Environmental Protection Agency.
The court’s decision to dismiss Prutehi Litekyan’s lawsuit against the air force was, in their words, a setback, but not the end.
Monaeka Flores, a core member of Prutehi Litekyan, said, “We’re definitely disappointed with the judge’s decision and we completely disagree.”
Back in January, Prutehi Litekyan sued the Air Force over their plans to burn and detonate 3,500 pounds of toxic and hazardous waste munitions on Tarague Beach.
Prutehi Litekyan and their legal representatives from Earthjustice claim that the Air Force failed to consider safer alternatives to dispose of the waste and failed to consider the risk of conducting these open burn and detonation operations.
David Henkin, an Earthjustice senior attorney, says that the military has been involved in crafting reports that confirm that there are safer alternatives in disposing of toxic waste, rather than burning them or detonating them.
“I think that’s just a matter of common sense,” Attorney Henkin said. “You don’t need to be a scientist to know that blowing something up in open air and on the bare sand is probably the least protective of the environment.”
Earlier this month, Prutehi Litekyan sent a letter to Guam EPA, asking them to “promptly deny” the Air Force’s permit.
Now, both Prutehi Litekyan and the Air Force look toward Guam EPA to approve or deny the Air Force’s permit to conduct open burn and detonation operations.
Associate Attorney Thien Chau with Earthjustice said, “If facilities cannot demonstrate that there are no safe alternatives to open detonation and open burning then they cannot receive a permit and that permit must be denied immediately.”
Guam EPA has not yet decided whether to approve or deny the Air Force’s request.
According to Thien Chau, another Earthjustice attorney, the same struggles with the U.S. military and open burn pits are happening in other places like Puerto Rico and Hawaii.
Despite the court’s decision, Prutehi Litekyan intends to persist past the dismissal and calls on the support of the community.
“The fight is not over,” Flores said. “We’re in this together and we’re stronger together. And we’re not going to give up.”