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Bill proposes $15M to fund wastewater infrastructure for lots over Guam aquifer

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Five senators have introduced a bipartisan bill proposing a $15 million appropriation for the Guam Waterworks Authority to fund the design and construction of wastewater infrastructure at the parental and decedent subdivisions over the Northern Guam Lens Aquifer or NGLA.

“The NGLA provides over 80 percent of the island’s drinking water and is essential to our very survival. The need to protect it from irreparable harm is non-negotiable," said Sen. Sabina Perez, the main author of Bill 322-37.

The legislation was prompted by concerns over the impact of Bill 175-37, which critics warned could result in an increase in nitrate and PFAS contamination and the doubling of wastewater into Guam's aquifer.

Bill 175-37, which has moved to the voting file, would amend the island's sewage laws to facilitate land development and allow a new type of toilet facility to address nitrate contamination.

 “It is extremely pertinent that we make other efforts to increase housing opportunities for our people, while simultaneously providing protections and mitigating the increasing contamination to the NGLA," Perez said.

Authored by Sen, Chris Duenas, Bill 175-37 would allow inrehited pieces of property to be subdivided into up to four 9,600 sq.ft. lots on the condition that developers use an advanced nitrogen-reducing onsite disposal system known as a Type-4 system certified by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency.

Bill 322-75 is co-sponsored by Speaker Therese Terlaje, Sens. Telo Taitague, Joanne Brown and Chris Barnett.

Taitague said discussions on the proposed wastewater treatment left more questions unanswered,

"If we are determined to push forward with the development of northern Guam despite potential risks to our clean water, this legislation will be our saving grace from the half-baked initiatives our people will surely pay for," Taitgaue said.

"Not only will it protect our water, but it may also reduce contaminant levels, fostering growth and development," she added.

Barnett said allowing increased septic systems over the NGLA is not the only or best option for affordable housing.

"Last week, debate was shut down on Bill 175, but the conversation on this issue must continue. Being blessed with this beautiful island comes with the responsibility to care for our environment, for our children and their children,” he said.

In a legal opinion issued upon Perez;s request, Attorney General Douglas Moylan said "more research and substantiation from experts is needed before the existing scheme of lot sizes should be modified."

"We understand that GEPA’s refusal to issue permits is based upon the premises that residential lot owners on smaller approved lot sizes are contaminating the northern aquifer because of their older septic tanks, and that GEPA does not want new permits approved for these smaller lot sizes," Moylan wrote.

"However, we have not seen actual testing done that shows this is the proximate cause for the alleged contamination, and a question exists that GWA’s leaking sewer lines may have been the reason. The bottom line is that further data substantiation is necessary to understand the cause," he added.

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