Guam EPA files civil suit against Taitano property owners

08 August 2012

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency (Guam EPA) and the Guam Attorney General’s Office today announced the government has filed a civil suit against Joseph S. Taitano and Rosalind Carmen C. Taitano in the Superior Court of Guam.

The suit alleges the defendants own and operate an illegal dump in Yigo. The case states the defendants received money for allowing household waste, tires, metallic waste, junk vehicles and other debris to be disposed of on their property illegally.

“Given the extreme damage to the environment, cost to the government and overall negligent actions of the defendants, we are pursuing civil litigation to help bring the case to a successful close. Typically our Agency takes action through the Notice of Violation and Order of Compliance method. In this situation, we determined the government needed to take additional steps to rectify the situation,” said Guam EPA Administrator Eric M. Palacios. “To our knowledge, this is the first civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the government for damages outlined in Guam’s environmental law.”

“It is our duty not only to protect our people, but also to protect our environment. People need to take pride in where they live and take notice of their surroundings so we can preserve our precious natural resources including land, water, and air, for future generations,” stated Attorney General Leonardo M. Rapadas.

The suit asks the Superior Court to order that the defendants pay no less than $250,000 in damages, pay $3,630,000 in penalties per defendant, pay for clean up costs to remove waste from the site or cap the waste, pay for landfill closure and post-closure requirements that meet federal requirements, pay for a groundwater monitoring plan, drill well boring holes and conduct water testing of the aquifer for two years and pay for any remediation of any pollution of the aquifer.

The complaint states that the defendants have injured public health and the environment by “unlawful storage, burning, disposal and/or receipt of waste.” The complaint also states that the defendants actions resulted in the “receipt of invasive species, odors, fires, smoke and noxious fumes…potentialy damaging Guam’s sole source aquifer through toxic leachate.”

As evidence of the impact to public health and the environment, the suit cites the deep-seated fires at the site in 2009 on June 6, June 29, July 17, July 21, Aug. 15, Sept. 21 and January and May 2010. The fire in 2010 was so bad that the Governor issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency. The Government of Guam spent approximately $250,000 responding to the fire that year.

A Scheduling Conference is set for Friday, Aug. 17.

The complaint in the civil case was filed in May. The Attorney General’s office served Mr. Taitano with the complaint yesterday morning.

For more information about the case, contact Tammy Jo Anderson Taft at 475-1646/988-7582 or TammyJoAnderson.Taft@epa.guam.gov.

A copy of the complaint is also available here.