Assistant Interior Secretary Tony Babauta led the ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday for the newly rehabilitated Aguingan Point wastewater treatment plant.
The project, which also included building some new structures at the plant and procurement of tools and equipment for wastewater operation, was funded by both the Office of Insular Affairs and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Babauta, in his brief remarks at the ceremony, said that his office provided some $1.6 million for the project while the rest came from an EPA grant.
He specifically commended U.S. Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan for demonstrating strong leadership in Congress by making sure the OIA budget is intact so it could provide more assistance to the CNMI.
Saipan Tribune learned that the EPA grant amounted to $3.3 million, which came from the fiscal year 2011's $3.774 million budget provided by Congress under the Clean Water Fund.
For fiscal year 2012, the CNMI stands to receive $6.7 million for water and sewer projects. This amount is higher than in 2009 because Sablan worked with members of Congress to change the percentage of EPA money that goes to the islands-from 0.33 percent for water and 0.28 percent for sewer to 1.5 percent for each.
Babauta said his office would not be able to do all its work without the great assistance of many individuals and offices, such as Sablan and Commonwealth Utilities Corp. officials and staff.
The completion of the Aguingan Point wastewater treatment plant rehabilitation will benefit thousands of residents from Chalan Laulau to Koblervbille and the airport. CUC estimates its clientele in these areas at about 17,000.
The wastewater treatment plant was originally built in 1992. At its prime, the Agingan plant had the capacity to treat 3 million gallons of wastewater per day. However, throughout the years, the plant deteriorated and suffered numerous failures, resulting in long periods of non-compliance with federal standards.
Lt. Cmdr. Brian Bearden, CUC's engineer and U.S. Public Health Service Officer, said the project entailed replacing virtually all mechanical components of the plant, including aerators, pumps, valves, and controls and the replacement of major concrete structural components.
Besides being an important part of public health and environment, the newly completed project is also a “fantastic” addition to CUC, according to CUC acting executive director Alan Fletcher. He lauded the OIA, EPA, and the Fitial administration for their continuous assistance to CUC's needs.
Fletcher said the funding assistance also allowed CUC to build a new staff office for both administrative uses and plant health and safety purposes, and a separate building for the backup generator. The grant funds also paid for vehicles and plant equipment.