EPA sharply criticizes military's Guam plan

By Audrey McAvoy
Associated Press Writer / February 25, 2010

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HONOLULU—The Environmental Protection Agency is sharply criticizing the military's plan to move thousands of Marines to Guam, saying its failure to plan for infrastructure upgrades would lead to raw sewage spills and a shortage of drinking water.

Further, the agency said the military's plan to build a new aircraft carrier berth at the U.S. territory's Apra Harbor would result in "unacceptable impacts" to 71 acres of a high quality coral reef.

The EPA outlined the criticisms in a strongly worded six-page letter to the Navy regarding a draft environmental impact statement by the military.

"The impacts are of sufficient magnitude that EPA believes the action should not proceed as proposed and improved analyses are necessary to ensure the information in the EIS is adequate to fully inform decision makers," the EPA said.

The military's Joint Guam Program Office said it was evaluating all comments it received on its environmental study and was committed to working with the EPA and other federal agencies to find solutions.

"The issues raised by EPA regarding the potential impacts to Guam from the military buildup are consistent with what we have heard from Guam's leaders, local agencies and the public," the military office said in an email statement to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The military plan includes moving 8,600 Marines, and 9,000 of their dependents, to Guam from Okinawa, Japan. Washington and Tokyo are jointly paying for the transfer, which is designed to reduce the U.S. military's large footprint on densely populated Okinawa.

The letter said that at its peak, the change is expected to boost the Pacific territory's population by 79,000 people, or 45 percent, over the island's current 180,000 residents. The figure includes large numbers of construction workers that will have to move to Guam to build the new facilities.

The EPA's letter, dated Feb. 17, was first reported by the Pacific Daily News on its Web site Thursday Guam time.

Specifically, the EPA said the military's plan would lead to the following problems:

-- A shortfall in Guam's water supply, resulting in low water pressure that would expose people to water borne diseases from sewage.

-- Increased sewage flows to wastewater plants already failing to comply with Clean Water Act regulations.

-- More raw sewage spills that would contaminate the water supply and the ocean.

Regarding coral reefs, the EPA said the military underestimated the effect the aircraft carrier berth would have on a resource that currently provides essential habitats for fish and endangered sea turtles and that supports commercial and recreational fishing.


On the Net:

EPA National Environmental Policy Act page for the Department of Defense: