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The Ordot dump, Guam’s only landfill, is on fire once again. The whole thing is a terrible situation, Guam’s greatest environmental disaster. The landfill should have been closed over a decade ago, but no one has the political will to open a new one. The politicians just talk endlessly about what to do, but never make any decisions. The EPA has sued GovGuam to close the dump, it regularly catches fires and it’s leaking pollutants into the groundwater.

The struggle to close the dump is a large, tangled mess. A large part of the problem is the NIMBY effect – “Not In My BackYard.” Nobody wants a new landfill near them and no senators are willing to champion the issue for fear of political suicide. A new landfill site was selected on the western end of the island, in a relatively unpopulated area near the Guatali River Valley. However, upon further study most of the land was determined to be on Navy property and not available for GovGuam’s use. So that plan is in hiatus.

The other major issue in creating a new landfill is the incinerator debacle. The law mandating the creation of the new landfill includes a section on the creation of an incinerator to burn a large part of the waste material before placing the ashes in the landfill. The government signed a contract with a contractor to build and maintain the incinerator and landfill. The plan was fundamental sound; the incinerator would be a waste to energy generator, supplying much needed electricity from the burning of trash to supplement the island’s power needs. However the contract has one major caveat: it stipulates that GovGuam supply a minimum amount of waste for incinerator or else we must pay a fine to the company. Many have pointed out this as a major stumbling block for the finalization of the contract, to say nothing of the protestations about the construction of an incinerator.

Personally I feel the incinerator is a good idea for Guam. It would drastically reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill. Combined with an aggressive recycling program, the island’s waste troubles could be eliminated. As for the minimum waste clause in the contract, Guam could make arrangements to take the waste from the CNMI, Yap and Palau for a fee to meet the quota. All these islands are also facing a landfill crisis, especially Saipan. Their dump at Puerto Rico is literally falling into the sea just north of the port. Guam could arrange for contracts to accept the waste from these islands and burn it in our incinerator. I will admit this isn’t a perfect solution, but given the realities of modern life I think this is the best possible solution for Guam.

Read the articles I linked to above; many more are available on the web. This is an issue near and dear to everyone on Guam. I woke up this morning with the smell of burning tires for the dump filling my house. I pity the poor souls that actually live next to the festering mass.

On a related trash note, my own personal pile of trash continues to grow outside my house. Trash collection is at a virtual standstill, not because of the fire at the dump, but because GovGuam’s fleet of trash trucks has been reduced to only 9 out of 35 vehicles. Of course nobody bothered to order replacement parts, or even notify the public until the trash just started piling up. I am luckier than most; my landlady owns a condo with private trash pickup, so we took a couple loads of trash over to that dumpster over the weekend.