Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The End of an Era

The end of one of modern Guam's most enduring eras is over.

Last week we closed one of the most storied chapters of our island's history.

We said goodbye to something which has in some ways been a terrible friend to the island and a necessary one as well. Through economic upswings, downturns, typhoons, an endless string of concerts by washed up musicians, the resurgence of Chamorro dance, and the sons of two different Republican Governors getting elected themselves to the island's highest office, this era had it all. Now it comes to an end.

Last week Guam began the transition out of the Ordot Dump era of the island's history and with the opening of a new dump in Layon, Inarajan, we have now entered the Layon Dump era of history.

Who knows what lies ahead for the people of this tumultuous little island as we go from putting our overabundance of garbage from one pile to another.


New Layon Landfill now open
FRIDAY, 02 SEPTEMBER 2011 01:39

TWO container trucks carrying trash became the first vehicles to make use of the new Layon Landfill yesterday morning following its official opening.

Prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the front gate, District Court Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood commented on the site, stressing it’s not a dump, but a landfill. She also noted the years it took for the new landfill to become a reality.

“This is really a long road, a challenging road to get to the landfill,” said Gatewood. “It was with a heavy heart that I appointed a federal receiver.”

She is aware of the concerns of residents in Malojloj, especially Inarajan Mayor Franklin Taitague, who didn’t want a landfill in his village.

Department of Justice Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mullaney called the new landfill a world-class facility and said Guam can be an example for other communities.

Also speaking was Harvey Gershman, president of Gershman, Brickner & Bratton (GBB), who admitted they saw challenges in the system, but since taking over the Solid Waste Management Division of the Department of Public Works, have been able to implement change for the better.

“What we have accomplished in this receivership is everyone’s success, not just our success,” said Gershman. “It’s a success for the island’s future – an environmental succession.”

Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio also praised the new facility.

“It’s a far cry from Ordot Dump. Ordot Dump was an environmental disaster. Here there’s protection to ensure our water doesn’t get contaminated,” he said.

A little sad

Meanwhile, Taitague admits that up until an hour before the ceremony yesterday, he was still in a state of sadness.

“My emotions are with the people of Inarajan. I still feel the site should not have been Layon, but the laws have made it clear that it’s beyond the control of the residents,” Taitague said.

Inarajan resident Manny D. Afaisen, 79, is one of those residents concerned about the site. He took a tour of the facility and looked at where the trash would be disposed.

“It’s a good idea. The only problem is there is a lot of water here,” he said of the location, expressing his concern about possible pollution of the area.

The Inarajan resident, however, said he was assured by many people, especially Judge Gatewood, that safeguards are in place.

“My visit and tour of the place kind of changed my perception of the facility; and I saw that it’s going to be run properly,” he said.


However, there are concerns about the road leading to the site and the trucks transporting waste.

“That concern was expressed during our public hearings because of the spill from the trash going on to the road and the stench from the trucks,” Taitague said.

The mayor added he was given the impression during a recent hearing that the highway will be fixed to accommodate the trucks coming to and from the site.

“They are working on the bridges. As far as the highway, that’s not a reality yet,” he said, adding he was informed by GBB it’s just a matter of the Department of Public Works fixing the rights of way for the trucks.

The mayor noted Route 4 will be used for a majority of the transfer of trash, which includes the snake-like road and hills of the As-Alonso area between Talofofo Bay and the entrance into Malojloj proper.

The matter was brought up during a status hearing at District Court on Wednesday. In GBB’s report to Gatewood, the receiver noted the problems they encountered during a couple of dry runs, including the narrow roads which made it difficult for the trucks to navigate.

It seems the work is already happening along that particular street. DPW crews were already seen clearing vegetation and cutting down trees that made it difficult for trucks to go through.

GBB’s report also stressed that until a permanent solution is made, they are going to use “pilot vehicles” to escort the trucks. These vehicles will be used to warn motorists of an oncoming trash truck.


Layon Landfill opens in Inarajan
Written by Arvin Temkar
Pacific Daily News

Officials celebrated the opening of Layon Landfill in Inarajan yesterday with speeches, a ribbon cutting, and even what amounted to a ceremonial dumping of trash. The occasion cemented the closure of the Ordot dump, which had polluted the air and water of the island for decades. But the opening wasn't a triumph for everyone.

"I know it's not a sweet moment for (the mayor of Inarajan)," said District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, who ordered the landfill built in 2004. "It's a bitter moment probably."

The U.S. Department of Justice, which forced the local government to close the Ordot dump and build the landfill by filing an environmental lawsuit, welcomed the milestone.

"We join the people of Guam in applauding the long-anticipated closing of the Ordot dump's gates and the opening of the Layon Landfill, two significant steps toward the enhanced protection of the environment and the public's health," said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, in a statement.

The Layon Landfill is designed and constructed with a number of environmental controls, such as double liners, to protect Guam's environment and the public from waste contamination, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Village host
As the gatekeeper for the island's waste, Inarajan must now reconcile with its new neighbor.

"There's not much we can do," said Inarajan Mayor Franklin Taitague. "We just more or less accept the system."

One of his concerns, Taitague said, was the path the large garbage trucks will be taking to the landfill, giving Tydingco-Gatewood's remark that "it's been a long road to Layon" a new meaning.

"Our highway, Route 4, is not suitable or adequate to satisfy the trash hauling," he said.

A report to the District Court of Guam yesterday from the federal receiver, Gershman, Brickner, & Bratton Inc., revealed that several curves in Route 4 leading to Layon are too narrow for the trucks, which can carry up to 29 tons of trash. The trucks encroach into the opposing lane when making these turns, according to the report.

Guam Department of Public Works is reviewing the receiver's report, said David Manning, special principal associate of the receiver.

Two escort vehicles with flashing lights and "wide load" signs will escort the trash trucks as a safety precaution, said Manning.

Other worries
Another worry is the smell that will trail the trucks as they drive by, Taitague said -- a concern validated when the large metallic vehicles came rumbling through the landfill during the ceremony yesterday.

Chris Lund, vice president of the federal receiver, said because the trucks can carry such a large amount of waste, trips to and from the landfill will be significantly reduced. Only 10 truckloads will be needed to move a day's worth of trash, he said.

Though some community members harbor a "not in my backyard" apprehension of the project, the new landfill is a major improvement over the Ordot dump, which, before the federal receiver took over, had been in violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act since at least 1986.

"It's a success for the environmental future for this island," said Harvey Gershman, the receiver's president.

How it works
The landfill's design ensures that problems that plagued the dump, like leachate running into a nearby river, will not happen.

The landfill is also monitored for landfill gas production, according to a District Court pamphlet. A gas collection and removal system will control the gas, which will either be flared or used as a fuel source, depending on the quality and quantity of the gas generated.

Waste will be deposited into vast "cells," which, unfilled, look like empty fields sunk into the ground. Two of 11 have already been built, and those two are expected to last seven to 10 years, depending on the amount of waste reduction people practice.

"This is a resource, so use it sparingly," said Gershman. "Reduce, reuse, recycle."

The trash entering the cells will be bulldozed and compacted, then covered with soil, Lund said. A tarp can be pulled over the waste on some days, so that soil coverage doesn't take up too much space. The portions of the cell not being filled with trash at the time are protected by a rain cap, which directs storm water away from the waste. Any leachate that forms will be collected and removed.

Taitague said though he is wary of the landfill, he recognizes the controls and precautions that have gone into the construction of it.

"I hope ... that it's going to be a healthy and prosperous landfill operation," he said.

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