Tables are turned: US to pay Guam $48.9M for Ordot dump closure
Updated: Nov 8
Consent decree caps territory's CERLA claim against the federal government
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The U.S. government has agreed to pay Guam $48.9 million under a consent decree that partially settled a long-running dispute over the expenses incurred by the territory for the cleanup and eventual shutdown of the infamous Ordot dump.
The settlement capped the government of Guam's $160 million counter-lawsuit against the federal government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act.
“This consent decree brings closure to an issue that has plagued our island for decades,” said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
Judge Jia M. Cobb of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia approved the partial consent decree, in which the U.S. agreed to help foot the bill forked out by Guam on Ordot dump.
“While serious concerns remain regarding liability for future costs associated with the Ordot dump, this settlement represents a significant victory for our island and will enable us to move forward,” the governor said.
Ironically, the closure of the Ordot dump was part of a previous consent decree sparked by the U.S. government’s Clean Water Act lawsuit against Guam in 2002, in which the territory was mandated to take corrective action on the 280-foot mountain of trash in Ordot. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ordot dump “posed an ecological hazard.”
The U.S. government’s lawsuit resulted in federal receivership that cost the government of Guam more than $200 million.
In 2017, the government of Guam filed a counter-action against the U.S. government for cost-recovery under the CERLA, arguing that the Ordot dump was the U.S. Navy’s own creation that later exposed the territory to EPA's legal actions.
The local government pointed out that the Navy built the dump during the 1940s and deposited toxic military waste there before turning over control to Guam in 1950.
In May 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Guam, holding that, “Remaining within the bounds of CERLA is also consistent with the familiar principle that a federal contribution action is virtually always a creature of a specific statutory regime.”
“Our island’s natural resources are sacred and must be protected. While we have resolved the past costs associated with the Ordot Dump cleanup, significant work remains to ensure the dump is properly maintained and the surrounding community remains safe and healthy,” added Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio. “We all have a part to play in safeguarding our land and preserving it for future generations.”
The federal receivership based on the 2010 consent decree ended in 2019 and resulted in the construction of a new landfill in Dandan.
Situated on a 63-acre property, the Ordot dump had been the sole disposal facility for Guam’s waste since the 1940s. Inspections by the contractor Brown and Caldwell found undocumented materials such as unexploded ordnance and leachate discharge.
The $42-million Ordot dump closure project was completed by Black Construction Co. in 2011.