Drainage project seeks to revitalize Garapan; eliminate runoff pollution


Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality’s non-point source pollution team is working closely with the Department of Public Works to revitalize Garapan, Saipan’s central tourist district.

“We are working very closely with DPW in cleaning up the storm drainages and monitoring [them], making sure the flow of water goes out and filters through this island,” he said.

Unfortunately, Rabauliman said, in the past they found one major violation during monitoring of the storm drainages, where one establishment was found to have illegally tapped into a storm drainage instead of a sewage line for their waste.

Another similar incident happened about two weeks ago, according to BECQ’S David Rosario, when the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. discovered that one establishment had drilled through a stormwater pipe to connect to a sewer line.

The establishment was not penalized as there was no leaking of pipes, and the establishment has been since been notified not to connect through the storm drainage, according to Rosario.

“Everything is under control,” he said.

The Garapan revitalization and water quality restoration and drainage project is one of the continuing projects of the local government to eliminate health hazards in the Saipan lagoon caused by stormwater discharge.

Along with improvements to streets and infrastructure to improve traffic flow, the project aims to make the area a vibrant place for tourists.

The area was described as “polluted,” with “unsightly drainage,” and an immediate priority in the Capital Improvement Project office’s 2016 grant request to the Office of Insular Affairs.

The project addresses the “single contributor to non-point source pollution” in the lagoon—an open ditch along the south boundary of Garapan that carries multiple waste discharges and roadway runoff directly into the lagoon, according to the project’s problem statement.

The project will divert stormwater into an underground culvert and into a series of ponds that will allow for natural filtration, so that debris and sediments will not flow into the lagoon, according to the request.

Right now, the drainage ditch is not well designed to trap and remove sediment and debris, the request stated.

A conceptual study completed in August 2012 estimated the cost of the entire revitalization project at $20.28 million.

For fiscal year 2016, the amount requested for the project is $3 million.

In the interview, Rabauliman said that during heavy rainfall a lot of the sediments flow directly into the lagoon. He said red flags in the area happen often, particularly when it rains.

He said these are “absolutely” health hazards to the general public.

“We do our due diligence in making sure we alert the public…to stay 300 feet from this site, or any site,” he said.

Garapan is the center of tourism on Saipan. Runoff into the lagoon is adjacent to three large resort hotels in the area, and can result in beach closures.

The project will also address air pollution caused by stagnant water in the area’s open drainage, according to the project’s problem statement.

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 dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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