Friday, December 07, 2007

Ordot Still Full, Will Continue to Take Trash

Dump full, still taking trash: DPW won't push public to reduce its waste stream
By Brett Kelman
Pacific Daily News

Trash collection will not be interrupted even though the Ordot dump is full, and Guam will be forced to face the financial, environmental and safety repercussions of the bloated dump until an alternative site is opened, Public Works Solid Waste Division Superintendent Dominic Muna said yesterday.

Public Works has two options for stretching the dump's capacity -- filling a staging area where cover material is kept, on Ordot's east edge, or continuing to stack garbage higher.

Neither solution is perfect, Muna said.

If garbage is dumped in the staging area, Muna said it threatens to contaminate the Lonfit River because it would be lower and closer to the water than the rest of the dump. If Ordot continues to expand upward, it will increase the risk of fires, landslides and cave-ins from poorly compacted garbage.

"Every additional day (Ordot dump) stays open, it is having a negative impact in some way," Muna said.

Still, he added, continuing to fill the Ordot dump was a better choice than giving residents no outlet for their garbage.

Muna said Public Works has no choice but to leave Ordot open until a new landfill is complete and ready to receive trash. Without a dumpsite, trash could pile up illegally in residential areas and on roadsides, becoming an eyesore and a danger to public health.

According to the speediest estimates, construction of a second landfill will take at least six to nine months, Muna said.

"If they break ground tomorrow, we'll close our gates in eight months and 29 days," he said.

Solid Waste Law Review Commission Chairman Sen. James Espaldon said that when construction will begin depends on where the new landfill will be built -- at the Guatali site or the Dandan site.

Until then, concessions will have to be made. Trash has already begun to creep onto Ordot dumps' access roads and garbage on the west side is encroaching onto private property.

Which to choose
Muna said private engineering company Duenas, Bordallo & Associates estimated that the staging area could expand the dump's life span by four months if the Guam EPA approves it as a trash site.

"If there are steps in place to control the runoff, ... and that would help minimize the damage to the environment, that is something we would be prone to approve," EPA spokeswoman Tammy Anderson said about the staging area plan.

Muna said members of the Solid Waste Law Review Commission had resisted the plan to use the staging area because of its environmental risks.

Espaldon said he is disappointed that Public Works waited until the dump reached capacity to choose an expansion plan, even though the warning signs were many and frequent.

"The bottom line is this fix should have been in the works a long time ago," he said, referencing Public Works' 200-day warning on Sept. 13. The dump has reached capacity well before the warning predicted, but Muna said it had just been an estimate.

If Public Works instead decides to expand upward, Muna said there was no way of knowing how many days the dump could continue before the safety risks of narrow roads and loose garbage bite back.

"It's a ticking time bomb," he said.

Anderson said dump runoff may be an environmental concern if the dump grows beyond its capacity and that the risk of trash fires burning plastics and releasing toxic fumes might increase.

Although a temporary dumpsite in another location has been proposed as a third option to tide Guam over until a new landfill opens, Anderson said Guam EPA would never approve it.

Proper waste containment for any dumpsite larger than a short-term staging area requires years of engineering surveys and scientific research, she said.

"A truly temporary site could never be good enough," she said.

In too deep
No matter which solution is chosen, the dump has already exceeded the capacity projected in Duenas, Bordallo & Associates' closure plan, voiding the design and forcing the government to pay for a new one, Muna said.

"When they prepared the design for the closure of the landfill, it was designed for a certain amount of waste and at a certain level. The more we exceed that, the more the design has to be mended, ... and the more it's going to cost," he said.

A methane ventilation system and a moat for contaminated runoff must be built to cap the dump, but cannot be designed until the dump stops growing, Muna said. Until a completion date for a new landfill is set, a new design can't begin.

Even though the landfill is being stretched beyond its limitations, Muna said Public Works did not plan to restrict the number of bags of garbage residents could dump.

He said he encourages residents to recycle and to lessen the trash load, but Public Works would not force them to do so because he didn't feel the process was fair or economically feasible for the disadvantaged.

Espaldon said public efforts to minimize garbage would be necessary and that he believed the public would rise to the occasion, but did not write off the possibility of legislation that would promote, or perhaps even mandate, recycling.

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