Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is seeking immediate legal action against the entities responsible for contaminating Guam’s water-source with toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS.
“The legislature’s lack of urgency on the issue of PFAS is concerning,” Leon Guerrero said on Monday in response to the legislature’s vote to delay action on Prutehi I Hanom Act of 2019, a bill that she proposed.
The governor noted that other jurisdictions have already begun the process of suing those responsible for the harm caused in their cities and states by PFAS contamination.
“Every delay on this effort threatens our ability to join the ongoing multi-district litigation, which is our best means of bringing justice to the people of Guam,” Leon Guerrero said. “The Prutehi I Hanom Act of 2019 is intended to equip the Attorney General, who serves as the Government of Guam’s Chief Legal Officer, with the tools necessary to ensure that our interests are represented and our position advocated for in any litigation filed on our behalf.”
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes said the court has set an Aug. 4 deadline to add new parties to the existing case and Guam has less than 25 business days to be a part of a multi-district litigation.
There have been approximately 100 cases that have been filed regarding PFAS and these cases have been transferred to a multidistrict litigation court in the District Court of South Carolina.
Barnes said a legislative committee’s preliminary research found that three wells on Guam have tested positive for PFAS.
“The three wells tested above the 70 parts per trillion acceptable by the EPA at about 200-250 parts per trillion,” she said.
The toxic substance, which can also be found in landfills, is known to cause around seven types of cancers, mainly related to the urinary tract.
The committee found that fire suppressing foam was used more commonly by the military and Air Force bases because it was the most effective way to put out jet fuel. Tens of thousands of gallons were used monthly for training purposes.
“While I support the governor’s bill and will continue fighting for the welfare of our Island and its People, the body has spoken and I will respect the will of the body,” Barnes said. “We are not in defiance of the governor, but we are keeping our commitment to the people of Guam as their elected leaders.”
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Bill to boost contamination lawsuit
The Republicans, Sens. Wil Castro, Telo Taitague, Louise Borja Muna and James C. Moylan voted against delaying public discussion on Bill 2 (1-S), which would authorize the Attorney General of Guam to procure legal services to pursue legal remedies for damages to Guam’s drinking waters and/or wastewaters due to contamination caused by fire suppressant chemicals.
The Republican senators said the “window of opportunity to assert our position” is small and requires swift decisive action.
“Immediate legal action led by Guam’s Attorney General is needed in order to mitigate further harm, pursue justice and compensation for damages caused by the environment and our people,” the Republicans said in a press statement.
“We agree on the need for legal action. What is needed is a healthy, open and well-informed debate on the bill in the Committee of the Whole.”
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