Main sewage line at capacity
Planned condos raise infrastructure worries
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
May 20, 2008
When manhole covers pop open and wastewater overflows onto busy Marine Corps Drive in Tamuning, it calls attention to a broader problem Guam faces amid a flurry of proposed high-rise condominiums.The main sewage line in the area has reached its limit, Simon Sanchez, Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairman, said yesterday.
"We have a major chokepoint," Sanchez said of the wastewater transmission line from Gov. Carlos Camacho Road in Tamuning to the Hagåtña sewage treatment plant near the marina.
With the line's capacity reaching its limit, GWA is at a point where it could refuse wastewater connections to new customers in the area served by the main line, Sanchez said.
The main wastewater line transmits sewage from areas beyond Tamuning. Its reach starts from the Pacific Islands Club in Tumon, to all of Tamuning, including Airport Road, and then East Hagåtña, according to GWA. The main wastewater line also services some areas of Barrigada, Sanchez said.
The main line serves the area in Tamuning and Tumon where at least three luxury condo high-rise projects are proposed for a total of almost 1,000 additional units.
The northern half of hotel row in Tumon Bay, from the Guam Marriott Resort to the proposed 700-unit condo project in Gun Beach, also faces wastewater capacity challenges that GWA has previously acknowledged.
"We don't want to stop development, but our growth has surpassed the current infrastructure capacity," Sanchez said.
He said about 20 to 30 condominium building projects are in various stages of planning by developers.
There's a consortium of luxury condominium developers that's working out a way to pay for upgrades to GWA infrastructure to allow their developments to get off the ground.
But the filled-to-capacity main wastewater line from Tamuning to Hagåtña is an example of what Sanchez called a "fundamental project that you can't just assign to one particular developer."
The cost to add a main sewage line from Tamuning to Hagåtña is about $25 million, Sanchez said.
GWA doesn't have an extra $25 million in its bank account to pay for the main line upgrade, but the agency has a plan to borrow about $100 million to $150 million from the bond market next year to pay for projects such as upgrading the main sewage line from Tamuning to Hagåtña.
But what's to be done until then, Sanchez asked.
"What do you do in the meantime? Are we at a point where we can't permit the next projects if we don't have the capacity?"
Wastewater capacity for Tumon Bay in general -- from Oka Point to Gun Beach -- is at capacity or has exceeded its load, according to GWA.
"Tumon Bay's sewer collection system is currently at maximum capacity and additional capacity will need to be added before it can take any additional wastewater loading," GWA officials said.
The agency is working "in partnership with a consortium of developers to create this capacity," officials said. Duenas, Bordallo, Camacho and Associates conducted an engineering study, and its analysis showed the sewer system in Tumon "is at or above capacity," according to GWA.
The study identified about $4 million in projects that will add enough capacity to central Tumon and the Ypao Beach area to allow the consortium's member-developers to proceed with their projects.
The developers' money, however, does not address what the CCU chairman calls the fundamental improvement that's needed for the main wastewater line.
The northern half of Tumon Bay hotels send their wastewater to the Fujita pump station, which has needed capacity upgrades because of its history of break-downs that has caused sewage to flow into Tumon Bay in previous years.
In addition to bond borrowing, part of the GWA plan to pay for upgrades to its infrastructure is its proposed system development charge.
The charge will require a new home construction to pay $4,000 for water and $4,000 for wastewater. Hotel and condo projects would have to pay $1 million.
Money collected from the charge will fund infrastructure upgrades for water and wastewater, Sanchez said. The charge also will pay for water and wastewater plants and other general infrastructure upgrades that may not necessarily be in the developer's area, he said.
But while some developers are talking about helping to pay for increased wastewater capacity, one developer, Michael Ysrael of Tanota Partners, questioned the GWA move to let developers "pony up" for more wastewater system upgrades.
Ysrael said when he reviewed GWA reports, he concluded that the capacity issue for wastewater in Tumon "has nothing to do with the system."
"It's not that the system is over capacity; it's not being run right," Ysrael said.
His family owns Tanota Partners, which owns the 600-room Outrigger Guam resort, a few other Guam hotels and is building the luxury hotel resort The Bayview 5 next to the Outrigger.
GWA, in response, stated it "routinely performs preventative maintenance on sewer lines in Tumon and on all sewage pump stations and wastewater treatment plants."
Ysrael also said in 1999, sewer lines were installed in Tumon Bay as part of the multimillion-dollar Tumon Redevelopment project, which was funded with borrowed money from the bond market.
But the Department of Public Works has previously acknowledged those lines, which have almost double the capacity of current sewer lines in Tumon, have not been in use because they're not connected to a pump station.
"The new station would pump sewage to another never-built pump station at Gun Beach, which would pump the sewage out of Tumon. These two stations were never built," according to GWA.
At least $8 million of the $53 million the local government borrowed from the bond market to fund the Tumon Redevelopment project, which started in 1998, was for wastewater lines, according to Pacific Daily News files.
Public Works Director Larry Perez said in an interview in December there was $2 million available for Tumon Redevelopment's phase 3, which would include a sewage pump station. But when DPW put the project out for bid, the price tag came to $6.9 million, Perez said at the time.
DPW did have an additional $4 million available from the Territorial Highway Fund, but lawmakers authorized use of that money for the partial payment of the local government retirees' cost-of-living-allowance back payment, Perez has said.