Judge orders more sampling for two contaminated water wells in As Terlaje

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DISTRICT Court for the NMI Designated Judge David O. Carter has ordered additional testing for the As Terlaje tanks that were shut down by the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation for contamination.

David Ormon Carter

In his order, the judge noted the previous report filed by CUC stating that the laboratory results for the two wells — IF 108 and IF 22 — had been received and showed that perfluorooctane sulfonate or PFOS was at 25 parts per trillion and perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA was a “non defect.”

CUC’s report was received by the court on Feb. 20, 2020.

The two wells were shut down by CUC as ordered by Judge Carter in January 2020.

On Monday, Judge Carter ordered CUC to conduct one test in mid-to-late June so that the court can receive the results on or before July 8, 2020.

In a CUC health advisory issued on Jan. 8, 2020, it stated that CUC had detected levels of two contaminants: perfluorooctane sulfonate or PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA that exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion in a limited area on Saipan’s tap 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.

On Jan. 30, 2020, Judge Carter received a report from a U.S. Department of Public Health engineer who stated that “contaminants still exceed the health advisory level in the identified water wells.”

In Nov. 2008, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited CUC 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 parties to provide the court status reports on CUC projects.

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

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