Guatali, Dandan, And Guam’s Long Path To A New Landfill

One of the many publications circulating around the office these days is the GFT News. This is the monthly newspaper of the local teacher’s union, the Guam Federation of Teachers. The April issue contains an article written by former Senator Tina Muña Barnes about the controversy surrounding the closure of Ordot Dump and the selection of a new landfill. The Guam EPA and Department of Public Works announced their selection of a site in Dandan, Inarajan earlier this year, over vociferous protest from the residents of Inarajan and some environmental activists. Muña-Barnes presents a thorough timeline of convoluted process that led to the selection of Dandan. Since the article is illegible on the GFT web site, I took the liberty of reproducing it here.

The article does make a good point. The Dandan location is rife with untapped sources of fresh water. At this point in time the northern water lens supplies most of the water for Guam, but there is no guarantee further development won’t deplete the water lens, causing a catastrophic puncturing of the water lens. Then the island would be faced with brackish tap water, similar to conditions on Saipan. Unlike our neighbor to the north though, Guam has abundant surface water which can be used to supply drinking water, including the numerous rivers in the Dandan area. Perhaps the GEPA’s decision to develop a landfill in Dandan was premature.

The CNMI municipal solid waste landfill facility at Marpi, Saipan has a 20 to 25-year life span.

Is Dandan the Best Place for a Landfill?
A condensed history of our long, strange trip from Ordot to Dandan
By Tina Rose Muña Barnes

Did you know that an environmental miracle took place in Guam in May 1996?

You might not remember it, because it wasn’t one of those events that sticks in people’s minds so vividly that even when recalled years later they can clearly remember where they were and what they were doing.

What happened in ’96 was also a political miracle that has rarely been equaled in all the years of self-government in Guam. With little acknowledgement of its significance, some two dozen strong-willed, charismatic and powerful politicians, including several who regularly, and with frustrating frequency, find themselves on opposing sides of issues for which the public desperately needs consensus, somehow reached unanimous agreement on an issue that had festered for nearly 50 years.

In May of ’96 the 23rd Guam Legislature unanimously passed and the Governor signed Public Law 23-95, mandating sites for a landfill to replace the environmental hazard known as the Ordot Dump. The Guam Environmental Protection Agency (GEPA) was in full support. Two sites were identified and are still designated by law to be the location for Guam’s first public sanitary landfill. The areas chosen were Guatali in southeast Piti near the old GORCO fuel refinery, and Mala’a, near the Veteran’s Cemetery in Piti.

The significance of the “Miracle of 23-95” wasn’t obvious at first but instead became known over time. Many don’t recognize its significance, and today, nearly 10 years later, some people want you to forget in ever took place.

Despite being the law of the land, GEPA is choosing to ignore P.L. 23-95 and is moving forward with a plan to place a sanitary landfill in Dandan, Inarajan, just a few hundred yards from sources of fresh water that could take care of the needs of 60,000 people every single day. GEPA says that the landfill cannot be built in northern Guam because of the potential threat to our island’s fresh water. Yet GEPA has decided that it is perfectly fine to place the landfill over an important source of water for our future. Their chosen site is in an area that is rich not just in natural resources, but is also the habitat for several rare species of animal life and is the location of several archaeological sites of significance.

How did we get to this point? To find out, we have to go back to the ’70s and ’80s, when the Ordot Dump was making a “trashy” name for Guam (see sidebar). Then hold on to your hats and follow the time line on the next few pages. Even after 50 years, the story won’t be ending soon!
Landfill Chronology

  • 1979 – Consultant Dames & Moore is hired to identify sites for landfill to replace Ordot Dump, which is expected to be full by 1985. Consultant suggested the Fadian area in Mangilao.
  • March 1982 – GovGuam grants an exclusive agreement to International Energy Enterprises, Inc. (IEEI) to finance, construct, own and operate a plant to burn solid waste collected in Guam. Guam Power Authority (GPA) is allowed to purchase alternate energy from IEEI.
  • May 1985 – GEPA determines new landfill should be near Mt. Chachao, south of Asan village.
  • July 1988 – IEEI transfers its interest in license agreement to Guam Power, Inc. (GPI) which becomes Guam Resource Recovery Partners (GRRP).
  • Nov. 1990 – GEDA signs amended license agreement with GPI and GRRP to burn solid waste collected in Guam; sell electricity to GPA; and construct new landfill per US EPA regulations to replace Ordot Dump.
  • April 1992 – GovGuam is threatened with lost of $2.7M in Federal funding because a proper solid waste management plan has not been approved and implemented.
  • 1992 – DPW issues RFP for a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of potential sanitary landfill sites for US EPA regulations. Contract awarded to Juan Tenorio and Associates which identified 3 suitable sites: the area adjacent to Ordot Dump, Mala’a, and Guatali in Piti.
  • 1995 – Attorney General validates provision of Customer Service Agreement between GRRP and GovGuam.
  • 1995 Juan Tenorio and Associates submits study on potential sites for a new sanitary landfill following US EPA evaluation standards.
  • May 1996 – P.L. 23-95 becomes law, mandating that the site for a new landfill shall be at the Guatali area in southeast Piti or at Mala’a, also in Piti.
  • July 1996 – GRRP agrees to build a waste-to-energy facility and a new landfill at Guatali or Mala’a which are to be constructed and completed by the end of 1997, at no cost to the government until operation begins.
  • March 1997 – P.L. 24-06 becomes law, to establish the process and criteria for privatizing the development and operation of a new landfill.
  • March 1997 – Oversight hearing held on the status and legality of the GRRP/GovGuam Agreement.
  • June 1997 – Legislature passes Bill eliminating funding required on the government’s part for the Agreement singed by GovGuam and GRRP. Bill vetoed by the Governor and overridden by Legislature. Becomes P.L. 24-57, preventing waste-to-energy and new landfill projects from going forward. However, in a written opinion of then AG John Tarantino, Memo No. DPW-00-0604, the AG advises DPW director that Agreement is valid and some provision of P.L. 24-57 are “void and unenforceable.”
  • Aug. 1997 – Legislature passes Bill to provide funding for the closure of Ordot Dump, and the construction of a new landfill. Bill does not address a comprehensive solid waste management plane to include: landfilling, composting, recycling and waste to energy. Bill is vetoed.
  • Feb. 1998 – P.L. 24-139 enacted, dealing with rules and regulations of solid waste.
  • April 1998 – P.L. 24-166 prioritizes the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan and requires legislative approval before final plan can be implemented.
  • Oct. 1998 – P.L. 24-272 repeals and re-enacts parts of 24-139 dealing with solid waste and mandates that the Ordot Dump be closed.
  • July 1999 – P.L. 25-70 establishes a commercial and residential tipping fee for trash collection.
  • Dec. 1999 – P.L. 25-93 implements rules and regulations for solid waste collection by DPW and implements the tipping fees as established by P.L. 25-70.
  • June 2000 – Taxpayer lawsuit filed against GovGuam et al to halt implementation of GovGuam/GRRP Agreement.
  • Oct. 2000 – Guam Planning Council (GPW) approves Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan (ISWMP) which goes into effect.
  • Dec. 2000 – P.L. 25-175 approves ISWMP after making amendments that are inconsistent with existing plan that went into effect in October 2000 as approved by GPC.
  • Nov. 2001 – Superior Court effectively rules against taxpayer lawsuit and that Agreement is valid.
  • Jan. 2002 – Superior Court decision appealed to the Supreme Court of Guam.
  • Feb. 2002 – Mayor Joseph Wesley withdraws from the lawsuit.
  • July 2003 – Guam Supreme Court rules that issues within the Agreement are inorganic.
  • Oct. 2003 – US Attorney’s Office and GovGuam enter in a Consent Decree filed with the US District Court, on closure of Ordot Dump as ordered by US EPA. GovGuam must identify 3 landfill sites, one to be selected, which would allow for the closure of the Dump. US District Court approves and files for the record on February 11-12, 2004.
  • Nov. 2003 – Mayor’s Council of Guam passes Resolution supporting the siting of the new landfill at Guatali, opposes the expansion of the Ordot Dump, and supports implementation of the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan to include recycling, composting, incineration, and landfilling.
  • Nov. 2003 – GRRP requests for reconsideration of Guam Supreme Court decision. The Court agrees to review its decision.
  • Dec. 2003 – Senator Tina Muña Barnes (D-Mangilao) introduces Bill 240 to prevent the new landfill from being placed at any of the three selected sites and directs GovGuam to follow the mandates of P.L. 23-95.
  • Jan. 2004 – GEPA and DPW begin process to study three possible sites for a landfill, following US EPA guidelines. Duenas & Associates are consultants in the process.
  • Aug. 2004 – A taxpayer lawsuit is filed in Superior Court by several mayors and concerned citizens seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to halt the GEPA/DPW study, citing they are doing this study in violation of P.L. 23-95, P.L. 24-06, P.L. 25-175, all current and existing laws that have not been repealed.
  • Sep. 2004 – Guam Supreme Court rules the Agreement between GovGuam and GRRP is valid and enforceable.
  • Dec. 2004 – Senator Tina Muña Barnes’ Bill 240 is passed by the 27th Legislature, to prevent the new landfill from being built at any of the three sites chosen by GEPA and DPW (Dandan because of water resources; Sabanan Batea, and Lonfit because of Federal Aviation Administration regulations that prevent landfills from being constructed within a certain distance of airports), and directs the government to follow P.L. 23-95. The bill passes by a 12-1 margin, but the Governor vetoes the measure and the Legislature fails to meet to vote on an override, so the veto stands.
  • Jan. 2005 – GEPA announces that of the three potential sites studied by Duenas & Associates, an internal selection committee made up primarily of staff members from GEPA and DPW have selected Dandan, Inarajan/Malojloj as the site for the new sanitary landfill.
  • Jan. 2005 – Hearing date set for April 8, 2005 regarding the GRRP (Customer Service) contract with GovGuam to remove the inorganic provisions of the contract, and rule on its validity and enforceability hence.
  • Feb. 2005 – Senator Rory Respicio (D-Agana Heights) introduces Bill 55 in the 28th Guam Legislature that will prevent a landfill from being built at any one of the three site chosen by GEPA and DPW, and requires the government follow P.L. 23-95. Bill 55 is identical to Senator Tina Muña Barnes’ Bill 240 from the previous Legislature.
  • Feb. 2005 – Judge Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson hears the arguments on the taxpayer lawsuit to stop GEPA and DPW from continuing the process to build the new landfill, now decided to be at Dandan, Inarajan/Malojloj. GEPA, represented by the Attorney General of Guam, has filed a motion for dismissal and argues in favor of their motion. The taxpayers file a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the process that GEPA and DPW are pursuing, and channel resources to build the new landfill at Guatali per the Tenorio Study of P.L. 23-95. A motion for summary judgment is filed simultaneously as well by the taxpayers. Judge Barrett-Anderson reserves her decision.
  • March 2005 – Senator Rory Respicio introduces Bill 90 which requires that land rich in water resources such as Dandan be condemned and acquired by the government for future water development. Landfills and other uses that could poison the water supply would be prohibited.
  • March 2005 – Public hearing conducted on Bill 55.
  • March 2005 – Judge Barrett-Anderson recuses herself from the taxpayers lawsuit to stop GEPA and DPW from continuing the landfill process without following existing public law. She stated her reason as having voted for bills supporting Guatali during her terms as a Senator. Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena is assigned the case.
  • March 2005 – Senator Jesse Lujan introduces Bill 105 which places the burden of public property value lost because of the construction and operation of a landfill or solid waste transfer station on the government.
  • April 2005 – Presiding Judge Lamorena recuses himself from the taxpayers lawsuit to stop GEPA and DPW from continuing the landfill process without following existing public law. He stated as his reason that his brother Tony Lamorena is a Special Advisor to the Governor and that there was a conflict of interest.

That’s were things stand today, and the story is far from complete. After all the people of Guam have been through, we still aren’t sure where the sanitary landfill will be constructed.

On one side, those who want it in Dandan, water resources be damned. On the other side are those who look to the needs of the future, and see fresh water as a vital need. In the middle are the people of Inarajan, caught in an unnecessary struggle and wondering why we can’t just follow that miracle that happened nearly 10 years ago.

And off to the side, the politicians who keep this process from moving forward when it could have and should have.

I have to admit, reading the article changed my mind about Dandan. I was cautiously in favor of the process, primarily because Ordot is such a dangerous eyesore. But once I started thinking about the likelihood of the GWA tapping out the northern water lens within the next few years, the fresh water argument started to make a great deal of sense.

Talofofo FallsAt the same time, it is my understanding that the Guatali site originally picked in 1995 is unsuitable. Further geologic studies indicated a fault line in the parcel of land; and a majority of the property belongs to the military, not GovGuam. Perhaps another area in Piti can be selected, and a new landfill built there – along with an incinerator. The prevailing winds would blow any harmful smoke out to sea from a location in Piti. But that whole incinerator and waste-to-energy story is a whole other debacle…

This is a complex issue, the question of a successor to Ordot Dump has been festering for decades. Muña Barnes does a good job of laying out a timeline, though she seems fixated on developing Guatali for the next landfill, despite the site’s disqualification. For the curious, the Guam EPA produced a useful website with documents about the proposed Guam landfill, the Consent Decree and other information.

2 thoughts on “Guatali, Dandan, And Guam’s Long Path To A New Landfill

  1. Thomas

    Oops, I forgot to add in the sidebar to Tina Muña Barnes’ article. It concerns the Ordot Dump.

    ORDOT DUMP: An environmental nightmare of the highest order
    Ordot Dump occupies 52 acres of land near the Lonfit River. Site has been the civilian garbage dump for the island of Guam since the ’60s. The river bed from the dump area all the way out to Pago Bay is filled with contaminants that will be there forever. The contaminants have become part of the river bed soil itself. Here is a recent history of the dump:
    • Dec. 1982: Ordot Dump makes list as one of America’s 418 worst toxic waste problems
    • Oct. 1984: Ordot Dump is listed as one of 28 “Super-Fund” sites by US EPA, a designation that identifies the worst environmental problems relative to solid waste, and making Ordot Dump eligible for priority action and funding to correct negative environmental impact.
    • May 1990: GEPA fines DPW $55,000 for contamination of Lonfit River in Ordot.
    • July 1990: US EPA issues order for GovGuam to correct contamination problems of Lonfit River/Ordot Dump.
    • April 1994: Governor signs law requiring DPW to close Ordot Dump by 4/27/1997.
    • Oct. 1998: P.L. 24-272 mandates that the Ordot Dump be closed.
    • Dec. 1998: Fire breaks out at the Dump, costing GovGuam $900,000. Numerous fires over the years have cost many millions of dollars.
    • June 1999: US EPA announces it will bring a lawsuit against GovGuam for not closing the Ordot Dump when it was required.
    • Oct. 2003: US Attorney’s Office and GovGuam enter into Consent Decree outlining terms of dealing with the Closure of the Dump as ordered by US EPA. Consent Decree requires GovGuam to identify sites for a landfill, which would then allow the closure.

  2. Merm

    I’m probably making this statement out of total ignorance, but why don’t they just ship the garbage to one of those uninhabited islands up north; you know, the ones with the natural incinerators already in place?

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