No more developments; Sewage reaches capacity in central Guam
Thursday May 22, 2008
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan, Variety News Staff
THE sewage system in the central part of Guam has reached choking capacity, prompting the Guam Waterworks Authority to declare a moratorium on development in the affected areas, utility officials said.
GWA's chief engineer, Don Antrobus, told the Consolidated Commission on Utilities that the agency is not likely to flash the green light for any new projects -- whether single-family homes or large developments -- in East Hagatna, parts of Hagatna, Tamuning, Upper Tumon, Harmon, and a section of Tumon Bay from the Pacific Islands Club going south toward the Hilton.
"We are informing developers right now who come into GWA and want to proceed with project plans that if they don't already have an existing building permit with us, they will not be able to move forward as we cannot allow any projects at this time to tie into our wastewater and water systems," Antrobus said.
James Martinez, executive director of the Guam Contractors Association, said GWA and project developers must negotiate a solution to avert the development moratorium that will bring the construction boom in Guam to a halt.
"A moratorium on development means potential revenue loss for the government of Guam in terms of taxes and future jobs," Martinez said.
But Martinez acknowledged GWA's dilemma.
"Developers understand that GWA doesn't have the capacity anymore to handle further developments in those areas, and we can hardly go around that," he added.
Martinez said GWA could benefit from more developments because it would mean more revenues that will enable the agency to handle and sustain developments.
"In the long run, the use of the wastewater facility pays for itself. But do they have the money to improve and sustain wastewater facilities? It's a Catch-22. What comes first: the horse or the cart?" Martinez said.
"I think both parties, GWA and the developers, need to come to a common ground and reach some kind of an agreement," Martinez said.
The GCA executive director suggested that developers could possibly split the bill with GWA to defray the cost of sewage facility upgrades. "You have to negotiate something and try to find solutions," he added.
GWA General Manager John Benavente said the agency is trying to develop "some bridge solutions that could assist with this challenge."
"But we need the community's support as well as we will need approximately $30 million to get the system up to speed to meet today's demands," Benavente said.
Karl Untalan, chief planner for the Guam Land Use Commission, said projects that have been approved by GLUC will be hooked up to the north wastewater system and will therefore not be affected by the GWA's development moratorium.
Untalan said the two controversial high-rise condominium projects proposed by Access Ypao Inc. are not likely to be affected because their water and wastewater systems will be connected to the north district.
"Only projects that will be hooked up to the system leading to the Hagatna Treatment Plant are affected," Untalan said.
He mentioned the Oka Point development plan is a project that will possibly be affected by GWA's decision.
GWA issued 700 building permits last year. At least 90 percent of the approved development plans were single-family dwelling projects.
GWA spokesperson Heidi Ballendorf said the agency will have to hold approval for any new projects until it raises $30 million for wastewater improvements.
She said GWA has identified the moratorium areas for sewage system improvements in the next five years.
Ballendorf said the need to upgrade the sewage system capacity was prompted by the impending military buildup, which wasn't factored into the GWA 20-year master plan when it was drafted four years ago.
"It wasn't in our master plan to improve our wastewater capacity until we saw this accelerated growth in these [affected] areas," Ballendorf said.