HONOLULU—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded $9 million to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to continue its efforts to protect human health and the environment. The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. will receive $6.7 million for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure support. The CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality is receiving an additional $2.3 million to support environmental program operations; $1.9 million went to BECQ in July and another $400,000 is being awarded now.
“This much-needed funding will help the CNMI provide cleaner, safer drinking water, while protecting its coral reefs,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “We will continue to support [the] CNMI’s efforts to ensure a better environment for [its] residents.”
CUC, the agency that provides utility services to residents, will use the $6.7 million for water infrastructure projects to provide 24-hour service to its customers, improve drinking water quality, and prevent water pollution, strengthening the resiliency of their drinking water system against impacts from storms such as Typhoon Soudelor. Targeted projects include water storage tank replacements and repairs, waterline replacements, sewer lift station renovations and sewer system improvements.
The work done by BECQ to protect human health and the environment includes inspections, projects to clean up formerly contaminated areas for productive use, monitoring the safety of pesticide use, programs to ensure clean beaches and safe drinking water, coral reef protection from runoff and sedimentation, and targeted projects to clean up polluted streams.
Environmental priorities for the EPA funding include:
• Ensuring safe, reliable drinking water;
• Making coastal waters safe for fishing, swimming, and marine life;
• Protecting coral reefs and public health by monitoring beaches and water quality, and implementing recently updated Water Quality Standards.
• Cleaning up Saipan’s watersheds by reducing pollution sources such as outhouses, illegal on-site disposal systems, piggeries, urban runoff, and livestock grazing.
• Conducting a radon assessment at selected homes and institutional buildings;
• Implementing a Conservation Action Plan to reduce and mitigate stormwater runoff for the Garapan area;
• Eliminating the illegal importation of pesticides and use of unregistered/foreign pesticides;
• Inspecting fuel storage tanks in order to prevent fuel leaks;
• Emergency response, hazardous waste, and clean air program management; and
• Improving the automation, standardization, and access of environmental data.
The EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region (Region 9) administers and enforces federal environmental laws in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands and 148 tribal nations—home to 50 million people. (USEPA)