CUC shuts down 2 contaminated water wells

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COMMONWEALTH Utilities Corp. Executive Director Gary Camacho told the federal court on Friday that CUC shut down two contaminated water wells on Jan. 30, 2020.

He cited a report by U.S. Public Health Officer Travis Spaeth who stated that “contaminants still exceed the health advisory level in the identified water wells.”

At a status report hearing on Thursday, District Court for the NMI Designated Judge David O. Carter said, “Public safety is going to come first.”

In a health advisory issued on Jan. 8, 2020, CUC stated that it had detected levels of two contaminants, perfluorooctane sulfonate or PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA, that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion in a water system.

The affected areas included Chalan Laulau, Iliying, Chalan Kiya, As Terlaje, Kannat Tabla, Fina Sisu, Oleai, and parts of southern Garapan, Gualo Rai, Susupe, As Lito, and As Perdido.

But EPA lawyer Bradley O’Brien at the hearing on Thursday stated, “There’s a distinction between [contaminants] concentration at the wells and concentrations in the tap water that is being provided to the public.”

Camacho told the court that CUC will install granular activated carbon filtration systems at the affected water wells.

“We want to purchase smaller units for approximately 10 wells that we believe would have an impact and be able to lower the current number parts per trillion that is required to 60, and hopefully no more than 70. Those particular wells will be eight on the Isley Field and two in As Terlaje,” Camacho said.

He added that each unit will cost approximately $15,000 and should be ready in three to five months.

O’Brien, for his part, stated that the Economic Development Administration grant funds are available to purchase the filters.

CUC will continue to test the concentration of PFOS and PFOA in all the wells, Camacho said.

Due to the PFOS and PFOA found in the islands’ water wells, the attorneys general of Guam and the CNMI have filed separate lawsuits against the manufacturers of fire extinguishers, which contained the chemicals that contaminated the islands’ water systems.

In Nov. 2008, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited CUC for being in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, the District Court for the NMI issued Stipulated Orders 1 and 2.

SO1 focuses on drinking water issues while SO2 focuses on oil issues such as requiring CUC to repair and replace oil storage and operation infrastructure, manage tank and pipeline facilities, and require spill and emergency response equipment and protocols.

The stipulated orders also direct the parties to provide the court with status reports on CUC projects.

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