Conversion of Puerto Rico dump into a park takes off

The long awaited closure of the Puerto Rico dumpsite and its planned conversion into a park inched closer to reality yesterday with a groundbreaking ceremony led by Gov. Eloy S. Inos and witnessed by U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina.

This is one of the biggest federally funded capital improvement projects for the CNMI. Armed with an initial funding of more than $20 million, the Inos administration awarded the project to a private contractor last March.

From left, Gov. Eloy S. Inos, U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina, Lt. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and Saipan Mayor David Apatang shovel sand during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Puerto Rico dumpsite closure on Monday. (Joel D. Pinaroc)

From left, Gov. Eloy S. Inos, U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina, Lt. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and Saipan Mayor David Apatang shovel sand during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Puerto Rico dumpsite closure on Monday. (Joel D. Pinaroc)

Monday’s groundbreaking signals the start of work on the project, which took 12 years and a number administrations to finally take off.

In his welcome speech, Inos said the project has gone through “three to four administrations, and numerous designs and redesigns” before the final plan was made and the work to start.

He said he has asked a final funding request of $1.3 million for the project, and thanked the Office of the Insular Affairs for the funding support.

Kia’aina, in a gesture of support, handed over an additional funding of $1.3 million in an award letter to Inos, who earlier spoke of sending the request to Kia’aina’s office.

“Governor Inos is so effective, that I now have this grant letter for $1.3 million as final installation for the project funding,” Kia’aina said.

Totaling $27 million, Kia’aina affirmed that the Puerto Rico dumpsite closure and improvement is so far the largest federally funded project in the CNMI.

Kia’aina, in an interview, said the project is “another example of how the federal government, through the Department of the Interior, works closely with the Northern Marianas for projects like this, which focus on protecting the environment, safeguard public health, and beautifying the island.”

Project funding

CIP administrator Vicky Villagomez explained that the $27 million was the total cost of the project, including those incurred during the past administrations.

“The initial cost was more than $23 million for just the construction. But from the beginning, the total cost is nearly $27 million, including management costs,” Villagomez said.

She explained that after a “base bid” was made, the government had to add two more components—booked into two additives—to the project, which includes further improvements and additional facilities.

In the final design, the park will have covered walks, landscaping, and lights, among others, Villagomez said.

She said the $1.3 million will be spent on the improvements. The letter of request was sent by the Governor’s Office last Thursday and was approved a few days after, she said.

Project duration is 540 days, and a notice to proceed was issued on May 18. Project completion is expected in November 2016.

The groundbreaking at the Puerto Rico site on the northwestern coast of Garapan marks the beginning of the first phase of a multi-million federal grant to stabilize and seal the solid waste landfill in accordance with an agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the CNMI government.


Located adjacent to Able Dock and Saipan Harbor and bordered by Tanapag Lagoon, the site was used for the disposal of nonhazardous solid waste between 1950 and 2003.

The goal is to reduce migration of contaminated water into the lagoon, protect the toe and slopes of the dump from erosion, control storm-water, collect and safely treat or vent landfill gas, and provide limited public access while meeting full compliance with EPA administrative order on consent.

The scope of work includes the installation of dump static and seismic slope stability, installation of drainage and erosion control, installation of landfill gas system, and the final cover system.

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Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at

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  • Taotao CNMI

    I would hope that OIA is not being sucked into converting Brownsfield to a contaminated public park. This is an example of military contamination turned to public park that only harms the health of users.

    • RCGuam

      This may have started as a military dump at the end of WWII but for years it was the CNMI Government that put hazardous wastes and other contaminants in it. There is shared blame here.

      • Captain

        What you say is so true, I have been involved in a couple of old “community dump” clean up in Hawaii on the Big Island years ago.
        In certain areas the Military had dumped their trash on top of old areas that was close to where they did some occasional training over the years, these areas was once used by certain small communities that just dumped anything over the side into a culvert or lava tube vent.
        This eventually cost the Fed big money in cleanup since they also used the site even though it was at a minimum and no actual pollutants dumped.
        THIS is an example of why in the past, the Feds will not co-mingle their waste with civilian waste.
        The liability and cost is too great.
        Thguis should be realized in the case with Tinin and their hope that the DOD will construct a landfill that will aloow the present dump site to be relocated and use jointly with the Military.
        Seriously doubt that that will transpire.

    • Captain

      They should look at reclaiming the methane gas and use it electrical power generation based on the amount that is available. the methane will be coming out of that place for many years.
      This as been in many areas and even in smaller ;landfills in Hawaii.

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