Guam – While the Guam Environmental Protection Agency is taking Joseph Taitano to court over an illegal dumpsite in Yigo they believe he operated, Taitano says he plans to countersue the agency for what he calls illegal dumping made by the very same agency charging him.
He’s been vilified and ridiculed, but Joseph Taitano believes the Guam EPA doesn’t have a case against him. In fact, he’s now claiming the environmental agency is the one that illegally dumped materials on his property.
“Like [Gov. Eddie Calvo] says, the governor says nobody’s above the law so I should be charging them illegal dumping on my property too because without the permit–they don’t have a permit to dump on my other property and leave it as it is,” warns Taitano.
It’s a convoluted case, but it begins with a coral pit with illegal waste located within a parcel of land owned by the Taitanos. Joseph Taitano owns lots 3 and 4, while the illegal dump sits on lot 5. He says Lot 5 doesn’t belong to him but he’s being charged with the crime any way.
In spite of that, Taitano says he cleaned it up using half a million dollars of his own money in 2008. Then the fire broke out in the illegal dump site in 2010. It was deemed hazardous enough that an emergency declaration was made and nearby homes were evacuated.
“When you have a deep seated fire like that, one of the common ways to control a fire is by smothering it; by putting materials on top of it that will stop oxygen from getting to the heat source and burning,” says Tammy Jo Anderson Taft, GEPA spokesperson.
But Taitano says EPA had no authority to put an access road across his lots 3 and 4 in order to get to lot 5 and put out the fire. He also questions the kind of material used.
Today we visited his properties to see the material. It’s a sludge type of waste material that looks concrete from afar but melts away when wet. And because of its instability, Taitano says he can’t do anything to his property, like plant banana trees or build a home.
“The value of the property is gone already because it’s unstable because even if you dump it there you still have to compact it to 95 percent compaction, minimum, before you can build a house,” he says.
Taitano plans to file a counterclaim against the Guam EPA and sue the agency $2000 a day since the day the material was dumped across his lots–the same amount of fines made by the EPA every day the illegal dump has been sitting there.
In addition, Taitano believes time has run out for the EPA to collect fines from him because of a statute of limitations on collecting fines—four years, he says.
But the EPA maintains they have a solid case against him with over 50 witnesses who will testify that they paid Taitano money to be able to dump waste in the coral pit.
“We believe that the government put up the funds to respond to this situation and the government needs to be reimbursed. The people of Guam, the tax payers that paid to respond to that, they need to be reimbursed for the funds that were expended,” Taft says. “That’s on the law, it’s not correct, and morally that’s not correct, because you can’t have one individual benefit from degrading a natural resource that everybody else needs.”
A settlement conference has been scheduled for November 16 inside Judge Arthur Barcinas’ courtroom.