DOJ faults CUC in seeking EPA approval


The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. remains deficient in submitting items for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval, including failure to submit a plan to repair leaks in the drinking water system as required by the federal court-mandated Stipulated Order 1, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

SO1 focuses on drinking water and wastewater and the restructuring of CUC’s organization.

As of press time yesterday, Saipan Tribune was still awaiting CUC’s response to a request for comments.

In the U.S. government’s August 2019 status report filed in federal court last Thursday, Bradley R. O’Brien, senior lawyer at the DOJ Environment and Natural Resources Division Environmental Enforcement Section, said CUC has failed to provide EPA an update on procurement procedures.

O’Brien said CUC also failed to install a computer-based preventative maintenance management system and failed to complete a water meter maintenance and testing program.

O’Brien said EPA, however, approved last Feb. 11 CUC’s drinking water cross connection and backflow prevention program, pursuant to SO1.

He said CUC continues to report that it is not billing customers adequately to cover the cost of service.

He said CUC states that non-revenue water is approximately 63%, meaning only 37% of drinking water produced, pumped, and chlorinated by CUC is being billed to customers and generating revenue.

CUC reported it is losing approximately 200 million gallons per month of produced water.

O’Brien said the costs associated with the lost water is passed on to paying customers.

He said the reasons for this loss include leaks and failed water meters.

O’Brien said SO1 requires an EPA-approved plan and schedule to perform detection and repair of leaks in the drinking water distribution system.

He said SO1 also requires an EPA-approved plan to identify and eliminate subsurface connections to old drinking water lines or pipes that may negatively impact the quality of water in the distribution system.

In 2014, EPA disapproved CUC’s proposed leak detection and repair program.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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