Imperial Pacific repeatedly violated, ignored BECQ orders


Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC willfully and repeatedly violated permit conditions meant to prevent runoff and contaminants from entering the lagoon, among other violations, at its casino resort construction site in Garapan, despite numerous warnings, fines, and cease-and-desist orders issued between the months of February and April, according to Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality files released yesterday.

Imperial Pacific is the mother company of Best Sunshine International, Ltd, which is building the 14-story, $550-million Grand Mariana Casino & Hotel Resort in the former Samoa Housing site.

The casino company’s construction workers essentially worked through ways to illegally pump the project’s waste and discharge and their potential contaminants into the lagoon through deficient runoff and erosion controls, unpermitted runoff pipes and ponding basins, and excavated grounds outside their permitted construction site, among others, according to these documents.

Construction workers have also seemingly disobeyed orders to stop working past extended working hours granted by the bureau, despite having the hours pulled a day before.

Construction workers continued to work into the night and Sunday, a day where construction is not permitted, in apparent plain sight to regulatory officials, according to these documents.

A highly placed regulatory official said fines have amounted to upwards of $100,000 and even more.

“We are always working to resolve any issues,” said casino CEO Mark Brown, when sought for comment outside a Commonwealth Casino Commission meeting yesterday afternoon.

“Any issues that are found we are trying to resolve as quickly as we can,” he told Saipan Tribune.

Warning signs

According to the sheaf of documents, the first notice of violation was given to Brown last Feb. 5

The bureau warned then of violation of permit condition stemming from “a failure to receive “written approval” from the bureau to dispose of debris or material from the construction site “at any other location other than the Lower Base Transfer Station or the Marpi Landfill.” The bureau wanted to ensure that written approval was granted, “prior to using any site” for the debris and waste other than the transfer station or landfill.

Last Feb. 19, BECQ again issued a notice of violation, describing a bureau site visit on Feb. 17 to evaluate repairs to the construction sites’ ponding basin containment.

The bureau said then that water from the containment was “spilling off the site through the erosion control barriers,” or sandbags, and “onto the street adjacent” to the site.

“From the street the water was able to enter the Garapan drainage and flow freely into the lagoon,” the bureau said.

And while the bureau ordered all work to stop the breaching water, which was mostly completed to their satisfaction, an examination of the street side of the project discovered “a 6- to 8-inch PVC pipe…concealed beneath handbags that were in place to stop drainage.”

“What appeared to be was water flowing freely from this pipe directly into the canal at the beach flowing directly into the lagoon,” the bureau said.

Last Feb. 26, the bureau warned of permit violations which required the casino company to submit “invasive species prevention plans” that educated its workers, inform workers of what to do if a live pest is identified in cargo, and to place brown tree snake alert posters at the construction site visible to all workers; among others.

‘Unpermitted excavation’

Last March 1, the bureau issued a notice of violation/cease and desist order, saying that the company was in violation of one of its commercial earthmoving and erosion control permit conditions.

These conditions, among others, requires proper erosion and sediment control measures be implemented, these measures be inspected weekly and recorded after every runoff event, among others. The bureau also said the company had violated regulations that prevents any person from earthmoving activity without the related permit.

The bureau described the violations as follows:

On Feb 12, 2016, BECQ officials address a runoff complaint south of Winchell’s Donut Coffee shop, and observed a “steady flow of runoff” from the Imperial Pacific construction site unto the CPL Derence Jack Rd. and the adjacent canal.

On Feb 18, 2016, BECQ officials addressed another complaint of runoff coming from a concealed discharge pipe from the construction site, into the canal across Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan. And while they did not find the pipe, an official observed a clearing of vegetation at the beach side area outside and adjacent to the project’s perimeter fence.

“It was confirmed that heavy equipment was used in the shoreline area to clear an access way to repair the northwest ponding basin,” the bureau said.

BECQ ordered the company to immediately cease all runoff discharge, maintain erosion control measures, cease and desist with earthmoving outside the project site, implement mitigation measures, among others.

The bureau warned that failure to comply with the notice may have resulted in fine of not more than $25,000 for each day of continued violation.

The bureau also discovered in February that substantial earthmoving and trenching was done adjacent to the fence line of Imperial Pacific’s construction site, well within the shoreline’s “areas of particular concern.”

The trenching appeared to be used as “temporary ponding basin,” the bureau said that was “outside Imperial Pacific International’s property boundaries.”

“An investigation was conducted and it was discovered this activity was completed by a crew under the guidance of MCC International, a company under contract for work on and around the Imperial Pacific project site,” the bureau said.

Last Feb. 22, a follow up visit revealed further violations: the trenching discovered previously had been back filled with beach sand “with the excess sand…pushed up against the out fencing of the project site.”

The bureau directed the company to cease and desist from the activity and slapped a fine of $40,000.

‘Construction hours limited’

Still, the violations persisted.

In a March 15, 2016 letter to Peter Cheng, assistant general manager of design and planning under Imperial Pacific, Division of Coastal Resources Management director Fran Castro suspended the company’s full 24-hour work schedule from Monday to Sunday.

“Imperial Pacific has been warned both orally and in writing of ongoing wastewater violations in contravention of permit conditions,” wrote Castro. “On March 10…DCRM enforcement personnel witnessed illegal discharges of wastewater from your project site.

The March 10 inspections revealed unpermitted wastewater discharge from the job site.

It also revealed the site’s wastewater diversion ditch within the project site with sandbags and soil berm that forced “all waste waters through the fencing into the off-site storm drainage.” And that “no erosion control measures were seen which would prevent contaminants from leaving the site with the waste water discharge.” The bureau slapped a $20,000 fine.

“DCRM had previously received credible reports of frequent and continuing violations, including photographs and videos of these discharges coming from your property,” Castro wrote. “Imperial Pacific has willfully violated the Coastal Resources Rules and Regulations and the terms of its permit.”

Castro told Cheng that effectively immediately work hours would be from 7am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday per their permit.

Last March 28, Castro responded to an environmental management plan from the company that assured compliance and weekly reports and training of construction workers so that they understood permit conditions, regulations, and laws.

Castro said DCRM would be willing to reinstate after- hours operations, after receiving requested extended working hours at least a day before work.

Last March 10, a bureau official responded to complaints of overflowing water from the construction site into a drainage system northwest of the project, and observed “turbid water flowing from under the perimeter fence” into the drainage. The bureau slapped a $25,000 fine.

DCRM met with a construction site official twice on April 8 to disuses “new evidence” of offsite discharge of water and work off of the project and remedies. The construction official assured “no further violations” the same day and provided an updated plan.

“Unfortunately, the violations we have observed demonstrate continued noncompliance,” wrote Castro, in the letter that again rescinded extended work hours.

However, the construction company violated the approved work hours, a day after.

Last April 9, a Saturday, a bureau official observed construction work at 7pm; observed construction work “throughout the day” on Sunday; observed construction work past 6pm continuing all way past 9pm.

“These are flagrant violations of the work hour’s stipulation” in the permit “as well as clearly outlined in the letter suspending work hours” past 6pm weekly and all Sunday, the bureau said, and slapped a $30,000 fine.

In an April 20 cease-and-desist order, the bureau notified the company of another violation. This time an April 8 discovery of illegal discharge at the southwest portion of the project line; poor maintenance of temporary erosion silt fence; “an unpermitted trench…excavated under the fence line as a discharge point; and signs of ponding outside the fence line. The bureau slapped another $25,000 fine.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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