Commonwealth officials will be meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency this week to discuss the $56 million allotment intended to help clean up the solid waste management problem on the island.
The amount was earmarked by Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) for the CNMI though Public Law 116-20, or the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019.
Sablan said the $56 million is not just for disposal of typhoon waste, but for other solid waste management activities, particularly to address the longstanding need for modern, environmentally-sound waste facilities on Tinian and Rota, as well as for the Marpi landfill.
Problems hounding the Marpi landfill recently came up, following an urgent meeting called by some members of the House of Representatives last week. Lawmakers met with officials from the Department of Public Works to discuss the inadequacies in the operation of the Marpi landfill, including improper compaction, water pump problems, lack of cell barricade, and other mismanagements of the site.
In a letter to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and legislative leaders, Sablan assured that the language of the Relief Act gives the Commonwealth flexibility and time to accomplish its solid waste management goals—that the money will be kept “available until expended.”
“We all know that the open dump site and lack of a sanitary waste facility on Tinian has proven a barrier to proposed economic development, and is, as well, a health and safety hazard for residents. …A lack of funding has made it impossible to fix this problem in the past. Now, sufficient money is available, ” Sablan stated in his letter.
He said the open dump on Tinian is a barrier to economic development, and that the people of Rota should have a dumpsite that protects the beauty of their island.
On Rota, the lack of a modern, environmentally sound landfill is a “blemish on our good stewardship, given the otherwise pristine condition of much of this beautiful island that is home to numerous rare and endangered species of plant and animal life,” he said.
Sablan also noted that there should be enough funding to care for the Marpi landfill.
“This facility, which was an example of best practice for the whole island Pacific region when first opened, is certainly stressed by the volume of waste created by multiple typhoons in recent years and development activities,” he added.
Aside from the $56 million, another $10.4 million has been set aside in the Disaster Relief Act for drinking water facilities and waste water treatment plants impacted by Super Typhoon Yutu.