THE Guam Environmental Protection Agency and Attorney General’s Office yesterday announced the initiation of civil litigation procedures against the owners of a property in Yigo where an illegal dumpsite was found several years ago.
The case, which has been filed at the Superior Court of Guam, charged that defendants Joseph S. Taitano and Rosalind Carmen C. Taitano “received money for allowing household waste, tires, metallic waste, junk vehicles and other debris to be disposed of on their property illegally.”
According to a news release from GEPA, “The suit asks the Superior Court to order that the defendants pay no less than $250,000 in damages, pay $3.6 million in penalties per defendant, pay for cleanup costs to remove waste from the site or cap the waste, pay for landfill closure and post-closure requirements that meet federal requirements, pay for a groundwater monitoring plan, drill well boring holes and conduct water testing of the aquifer for two years, and pay for any remediation of any pollution of the aquifer.”
The legal document formally outlining the complaint stated the defendant’s “unlawful conduct caused a number of fires occurring on the lots, resulting in reports of fires to the Guam Fire Department.”
The first report of fires in the Yigo property occurred on June 6, 2009 while the worst incident occurred on May 11, 2010, according to the complaint.
The fire reported on May 2010 resulted in the issuance of an executive order by the governor, “declaring a state of emergency and authorizing appropriation of up to $250,000 from the General Fund to pay for significant emergency expenses related to the fire.”
“Given the extreme damage to the environment, cost to the government and overall negligent actions of the defendants, we are pursuing civil litigation to help bring the case to a successful close. Typically our agency takes action through the Notice of Violation and Order of Compliance method. In this situation, we determined the government needed to take additional steps to rectify the situation,” said GEPA Administrator Eric M. Palacios. “To our knowledge, this is the first civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the government for damages outlined in Guam’s environmental law.”
Attorney General Lenny Rapadas added: “It is our duty not only to protect our people, but also to protect our environment. People need to take pride in where they live and take notice of their surroundings so we can preserve our precious natural resources, including land, water and air, for future generations.” The complaint, according to the GEPA release, states the defendants have injured public health and the environment by “unlawful storage, burning, disposal and/or receipt of waste.”
The complaint also states the defendants’ actions resulted in the “receipt of invasive species, odors, fires, smoke and noxious fumes ... potentially damaging Guam’s sole source aquifer through toxic leachate.”
Last June, the GEPA board voted to rescind an order of compliance filed earlier against Joseph Taitano for running the illegal dumping site after citing legal reasons. Late last year, when a GEPA hearing about the case was conducted, the defendant argued that proper notice was not given to him about the hearing.
However, after the rescindment of the order, GEPA said they would consider taking legal recourse since environmental violations were definitely noted during the investigation.
For more information about the case, contact Tammy Jo Anderson Taft via phone at 475-1646/988-7582 or through email at TammyJoAnderson.Taft[at]epa.guam.gov.