A lot of information was researched in order to produce the Governor’s State of the Island Address. As part of our commitment to transparency and accountability, we are sharing this information with you. In the following attachment you will find statistics and trends that illustrate the current state of Guam, and how our situation has changed over the years.
Today, we are sending information about the environment, the Governor’s national agenda on climate change, and the efforts to keep Guam clean and combat trash and chemical waste. The report you will read provides statistics on recycling efforts, stray dogs, water quality control, and environmental enforcement.
This is an excellent resource for academics, students, and anyone interested in the true picture of Guam.
The condition of our island
Guam’s environment poses no significant danger to the health of Guamanians. Air and water quality are well below federal pollution standards.
Overall, the air, ground water, land, coastal and terrestrial quality of Guam is much better than in past years. This is because the Guam Environmental Protection Agency has issued developmental permits in a much timelier manner. Permits force applicants to operate inside the parameters of what’s allowed by law. The agency has also exercised its enforcement tools much better than at any time in its history. The latter lends to increased compliance with environmental laws and regulations, and it steers most would-be violators away from costly infractions.
Safe drinking water
According to the Guam Waterworks Authority’s 2012 Water Quality Report, our island’s drinking water is safe to drink. All mandatory health-related standards are not only being met, but reported measurements are significantly lower than the maximum contaminant level allowed by the federal government. Guam Waterworks tested water from the Northern aquifer, the Ugum Treatment Plant and water from the Fena Reservoir. These tests occurred weekly during calendar year 2012. The containments measured include:
- Microbial containments (such as viruses and bacteria)
- Inorganic containments (such as salts and metals)
- Pesticide and herbicide containments
- Organic chemical containments (such as by-products of industrial processes or petroleum production)
- Radioactive containments
Guam’s clean environment is reliant on the Guam Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement, permitting, and inspection functions. In total, there were 85 Notices of Violations issued against individuals, public and private entities, and the Department of Defense in Fiscal Year 2013. These violations covered harmful pollution like pesticides, hazardous waste, solid waste, unsafe drinking water, and water pollution. In FY 2011 Guam EPA issued 73 notices of violation, and issued 95 notices in FY’12. Although Guam EPA does collect fines as a result of violations, the money is not the most valuable aspect of this mandate. Rather, levying fines against individuals and companies who illegally pollute Guam protects our environment and our health. In total, $90,480 in penalties and fines was assessed between Fiscal Years 2011 and 2013–increasing each year the Calvo Tenorio administration has been in office. The breakdown is as follows:
- 2011: $18,180
- 2012: $21,900
- 2013: $50,400
In addition to this, Guam EPA issued 5826 permits for residential, commercial, Government of Guam and Dept. of Defense activities between Fiscal Years 2011 and 2013. This function is also important, because people and companies without a valid permit cause the overwhelming majority of environmental violations. Permit holders are made aware of the parameters that they can conduct their developmental activities, and maintain compliance with the conditions of their permits. All permit holders are aware that failure to do so would result in a hefty penalty–upwards of $10,000-per-day. The per fiscal year breakdown of permits issued is below:
- 2011: 2062
- 2012: 1801
- 2013: 1963
Another major accomplishment for Guam EPA came in September 2013. That month, its drinking water laboratory received a three-year recertification from US EPA after an onsite inspection tested its staff credentials, laboratory practices, equipment, organization and calibration of equipment.
On Guam, we generate almost 8,000 tons of waste per month. At the end of the year, our landfill will have collected an average 96,000 tons of garbage. With limited available areas for a landfill, it is more important than ever for Guam to recycle. This will extend the life of our current landfill, and save millions of dollars significantly delaying the construction of new landfill cells.
In February 2012, Guam EPA released the first-ever calculated island-wide recycling rate for Guam. Its report showed our recycling rate was 17.85 percent. Currently, more people are recycling thanks to the new curbside recycling program. Last year, the Guam Solid Waste Authority provided island residents with an extra bin specifically for recycling. This bin is for cardboard, office paper, newspaper, magazines, plastic, aluminum and steel cans. Instead of going into the Layon landfill, this waste is sent to recycling centers–diverting tons of trash that historically was just thrown away. The effort is working to increase recycling. According to Guam EPA, Guam recycled more than 28 percent of all disposed materials in 2013–a 55.5 percent increase from the prior year.
But the most pressing environmental issue–especially with its potential impact on the global community is climate change. The most vulnerable among all the nations in the world are small islands, like Guam and the rest of Micronesia.
Governor Calvo is a leader in the nation to craft adaptation policies on climate change. In November 2013, he was appointed as the only Republican Governor to serve on President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness. This appointment proves once again that his leadership transcends party lines, and his collaborative approach to governance places our island at the forefront of many federal issues. He is joined by over two-dozen other state, municipal, and tribal officials throughout the United States of America on this group. The Task Force was created to advise the Obama Administration as to how the Federal Government responds to the needs of communities that are dealing with climate change.
This organization provides a direct link to President Obama and the White House. Guam, once again, is in a position to be the voice for Micronesia. Our region is facing drastic climate-based changes, especially coral bleaching, coastal erosion, and rising seas. These are issues that affect the livelihoods of thousands of Pacific Islanders.
The Executive Order, signed by President Obama, directs Federal agencies to:
· Modernize Federal programs to support climate-resilient investments;
· Manage lands and waters for climate preparedness and resilience;
· Provide information, data, and tools for climate change preparedness and
· Plan for climate change related risk.
Our region, and indeed many other Pacific islands have inherent vulnerabilities and limited resources that will worsen the socioeconomic and environmental impact of climate change to our community. Scientists have observed a significant sea level rise and consider the impact of climate change on the economies of Micronesian islands to be some of the most detrimental in the world. Sustainable and earth-friendly development is a challenge for Guam in general–because of our island’s small size, remote location, and fragile ecosystems. Worse yet, when the impact of climate change is expressed as a percent of gross domestic product, some of the most impacted countries in the world are Pacific island nations in Micronesia. These nations, such as the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, and Republic of Marshall Islands are Guam’s immediate neighbors.
The Calvo Tenorio administration is deeply concerned about the disproportionate fiscal impact climate change will inevitably impose on our economy if responsible and long-term adaptation policies are not enacted. In many instances, federal support to implement corresponding regulatory mandates is not provided. Governor Calvo presented policy priorities and impact concerns to the task force in December 2013. During this presentation, Governor Calvo spoke about climate change as a regional issue–passing along the experiences of other Micronesian Chief Executives to the President’s task force. While there are many courses of action in which climate change adaptation can be pursued, the Governor listed the following as priorities:
- Protecting Guam’s economy and natural resources including but not limited to tourism, coral reefs, and freshwater sources;
- Building long-term climate resilience in Guam’s infrastructure;
- Reducing socioeconomic vulnerabilities, particularly those worsened by environmental refugees from within the region, and biosafety hazards;
- Enhancing disaster risk management by incorporating climate change adaptation and preparing for extreme events; and
- Revising traditional evaluation criteria for Federal assistance, such as population and size, to emphasize a jurisdiction’s risk and vulnerability.
Many of these priorities are covered in three major climate change-related impacts Governor Calvo shared with the task force:
IMPACT 1: Environmental Refugees and Migration Patterns
Land and sea are more than geography to indigenous populations. They lie at the heart of our cultural practices and our identity. The deep connection we feel to our island is fostering our resolve to adapt and safeguard our communities. History has demonstrated that a sea level rise forces migration, threatening that connection. The negative socioeconomic impacts of climate change on neighboring Micronesian islands are anticipated to increase migration to the island, especially as a result of the federal mechanism in place that encourages it.
IMPACT 2: Our Economy
Small islands do not have the luxury of a diverse economy. Tourism is important throughout Micronesia, underscoring the importance of protecting our coral reefs. These reefs not only attract tourists to our region, but they also protect our coastal communities from storm surges and provide food security. Ocean acidification and rising temperatures harm marine ecosystems and change migratory patterns of our fish. Climate change adaptation will help us protect our economy and natural resources.
IMPACT 3: Infrastructure
While climate change may not be the only cause for damage to our infrastructure, it certainly exacerbates the challenges that Guam currently faces. Our ocean already is eroding coastal roads. Additionally, modernizing our existing utility infrastructure will protect our freshwater sources and reefs, as well as produce energy more efficiently. Most importantly, Guam’s infrastructure must be able to withstand a variety of extreme weather events and progressive climate change, such as flooding, drought, typhoon, or rising seas.
Ultimately, in order for Guam to improve our capacity to adapt to climate change, the local, federal, and regional governments must understand baseline conditions and stressors. As a small island, Guam has limited resources and must thoroughly understand impacts of climate change to execute the most beneficial adaptation policies. A comprehensive vulnerability assessment should be conducted within each state and territory to accommodate the particular needs of each jurisdiction. Governor Calvo also supports policies being implemented in a sectorial manner amongst state agencies to enhance efficiency.
Overall, Governor Calvo supported three broad priorities for climate change, and presented them to the task force:
– The vulnerability and risk of a community as a result of climate change should be incorporated. Vulnerability and risk do not always correlate to a jurisdiction’s size and population.
– Accordingly, policies based on traditional evaluation criteria, such as population and size, should be reevaluated to take into consideration the relative fiscal impact they place on communities.
– We appeal to the Federal government, as the world’s superpower, to encourage larger countries to commit to Climate Change adaptation.
The challenges we face
Illegal dumping and littering continue to be a problem on Guam. Guam EPA received 224 citizen complaints about solid waste pollution in the past two years alone. Thankfully, the citizenry of Guam and the administration continuously host and support cleanups around the island in an effort to engage the community and properly dispose of the waste.
International Coastal Cleanup
The International Coastal Cleanup is the largest single-day cleanup on the island. The annual event has grown over the years, and shows that illegal dumping and coastal littering is on the decline. In their 2012 database, Ocean Conservancy reported 3,449 people participated in the Guam 2012 Coastal Cleanup and cleared 20,766 pounds of trash from 21.7 miles of coastline. Meanwhile, 64 people participated in underwater cleanup efforts and gathered 50 pounds of trash and covered 38.3 miles.
The previous year, the Coastal cleanup covered less ground and recovered more trash (51.7 miles and 24,302 pounds respectively), indicating that littering on Guam’s coasts has decreased. Collected underwater litter in particular decreased significantly, from 880 pounds in 2011 to 50 pounds in 2012.
Our top ten types of debris found both on land and underwater are outlined in the 2012 Guam Statistical Yearbook. Since many of these items comprise the bulk of the trash collected during the International Coastal Cleanup, the unfortunate truth is these small, light items can translate into tons of trash on our beaches. The top ten list is below.
- Beverage Cans
- Cigarettes and cigarette filters
- Plastic beverage bottles
- Disposable plate ware and silverware
- Caps and lids
- Glass beverage bottles
- Food wrappers and containers
- Cigar tips
- Construction materials
While discarded trash leaves tons of waste, generations of discarded dogs have led to another major environmental health and safety issue on Guam. According to the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Control Unit, Guam is estimated to have 40,000 stray dogs. Of this population, the unit reports that 40 percent are first generation strays; another 40 percent are second generation; and the remaining 20 percent are multi-generation feral dogs. Since many of these dogs are not spayed or neutered, the population will increase over time. Animal control officers and the islands mayors and vice mayors do their best to curb the number of stray dogs on the island, but the Department of Agriculture estimates that of every ten stray dogs, only two are captured.
This year, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International approached the Calvo Tenorio administration looking to help local officials decrease the island’s stray dog population. Officials from these organizations have teamed up with Guam Animals in Need to conduct the first step in this process: an updated survey of stray dogs in ten of our villages. The villages slated for surveys are Merizo, Agat, Sinajana, Yona, Agana Heights, Yigo, Dededo, Barrigada, Mangilao, and Inarajan. This study will determine both a count of animals and resident feedback on the stray dog issue. Residents will be asked several questions, including:
- The number of dogs and cats residents have
- Whether these animals live inside or outside
- If pets have been spayed or neutered
- What are their feelings toward sterilization
Currently, five of the ten villages that were surveyed are near completion. More resources may be needed to properly address the findings of this study, which makes it more important to allocate limited funds for environmental protection to problems Guam must address. Burdensome and unfounded federal directives may divert these limited funds, making it necessary to ensure Guam takes the federal government to task when their financial mandates should not apply to Guam.
Fighting unnecessary federal mandates
Three years ago, U.S. EPA raised a concern that surface water filtering into Guam’s northern aquifer (our main source for drinking water) was contaminating its water. These concerns followed with the possibility that Guam Waterworks Authority would have needed to overhaul the water well infrastructure throughout the island to bring it up to the stringent federal standards–costing taxpayers $200 to $300 million and disrupting water services.
In November 2013, UOG’s Water and Environment Research Institute, Guam EPA and U.S. EPA presented the conclusions of extensive research proving the northern aquifer is not being contaminated by surface water. This means our water is safe to be consumed. These findings proved that U.S. EPA’s initial concerns were unfounded–and would’ve imposed costly, unnecessary mandates on Guam taxpayers. Each taxpayer would have paid an average of $1,764 because of this safety designation.
The resistance the Calvo administration put up to the federal government’s burdensome and unfounded demands led to the discovery of evidence that caused US E.P.A. to reconsider any possible forced action. The Calvo administration continues to question the federal mandates that threaten to impose unnecessary and costly regulation for the people of Guam to pay. Governor Calvo laments previous local officials did not put up this resistance before the Ordot consent decree and the water wastewater permanent injunction. These federal actions are costing taxpayers $2 billion dollars. While many of these improvements are necessary, scientific evidence is suggesting that at least hundreds of millions of dollars of court ordered improvements are baseless and have no benefit to Guamanians or our environment.
In his State of the Island address, Governor Calvo announced another landmark move to hold the federal government responsible to the problems they created on our island. He intends to sue the federal government to recognize the role they played with respect to the environmental impact from the Ordot Dump. In particular, decades worth of hazardous materials were disposed of in the dump by the federal government. Many of the toxic chemicals found in the dump’s leachate are a direct result of these materials. The Calvo Tenorio administration contends that federal law requires that the U.S. government address and mitigate the impacts of its post-war deposits into the dump.
In October of last year, the Guam Solid Waste Authority began implementing an island-wide curbside recycling program. This wide-scale rollout was implemented after a successful pilot program. Customers will be able to place all of their paper (magazines, copy paper, newspaper, cardboard, cereal boxes, and other paper), aluminum and metal cans, and plastics 1 & 2 beverage containers in one cart for collection. By using this recycling tool to its full potential, Guam can divert up to 50 percent (nearly 1,200 pounds a year per person) from being disposed of in the Layon Landfill.
Before the government sponsored recycling for our people, Guam relied on community organizations to foster recycling habits. In particular, Ms. Peggy Denney and the i*recycle program play an integral role in recycling on Guam. This non-profit program was created by the Guam Business Partners for Recycling, which is comprised of six local businesses, to promote aluminum beverage can recycling throughout the island. The organization is focused on educating our students about recycling, and providing fundraising opportunities through participation in the program. Since 2008, schools have been able to raise money by filling their i*recycle bins with aluminum beverage cans. . The program has helped the schools earn over $160,000.
Ms. Denney has extended her reach beyond our schools to recycle at major community events. The Liberation Day Parade and Carnival, village fiestas, and the Micronesian Island Fair have all been “green” events thanks to the efforts of i*recycle and Ms. Denney. Truck-loads of recyclable waste from these highly attended events, which would have gone into the landfill, are now recycled. More importantly, these activities continuously promote good recycling habits to Guamanians young and old.
Although our recycling rate is up to 28 percent, greater participation can bring meaningful financial assistance to our public schools. Guam imports over 80 million aluminum beverage cans a year, and Ms. Denney estimates that at the current rate of $.60 per pound being received by the i*recycle program, $600,000 a year could be earned to help our students and teachers at the participating schools.
A major environmental arm of the Calvo Tenorio administration is the Lt. Governor’s Islandwide Beautification Task Force (IBTF). Along with his wife and co-chair, Attorney Naoko Shimizu, the task force has increased awareness in our community. Beautification is more than just about keeping our island clean and picking up trash. All this work is about being proud of Guam, and being proud of ourselves. If we all take ownership and be proactive, then our island will be as beautiful as we say it is–and everyone, whether you’re a Japanese visitor who’s here for three days or a Marine who’s here for three years, will be proud of Guam and her people. IBTF is spreading this message of pride and responsibility in a couple of ways:
- Spreading the message of beautification, island pride, and responsibility to the public. In cooperation with the Guam Energy Office, IBTF created a public awareness campaign called the “The Green Dream.” Additionally, IBTF spreads its message and reports on its progress through regular radio appearances on multiple stations (including those of the Sorensen Media Group and KUAM Radio) and a weekly column in the Pacific Daily News.
- Creating more partnerships with local organizations, non-profits and businesses. These relationships increase participation in various programs, and leave a lasting impression on Guamanians.
These awareness campaigns significantly increased IBTF’s activities since the Calvo Tenorio administration took office in January 2011. Programs that have grown over the years include:
- Bus Stop Adoption and Guam Seal Bus Stop Projects: Many bus stops are frequent targets for graffiti and other forms of vandalism. Even clean bus shelters around the island could use a fresh coat of paint. This program partners organizations, families, and individuals with IBTF to give much-needed facelifts to bus stops: a place where tens of thousands of students go to every day. IBTF has increased its adoption rate to two bus shelters per week, which amounts to more than 100. In 2013, 138 bus stops were adopted. Since 2011, 233 bus stops have been adopted. Many of these shelters feature the Guam seal prominently. This was a creative campaign to use the Lt. Governor’s role as keeper of the seal to spread island pride and educate on the history and symbolism of the Guam seal.
- Roadway Adoption Program: A lot of visible litter and graffiti are found along Guam’s major roadways. Recognizing limited resources at the Department of Public Works, the Guam Police Department, and mayors offices around the island, IBTF created the Roadway Adoption Program (RAP) as a way to clean up Guam’s streets. The program encourages, promotes, and invites businesses and organizations to adopt a stretch of roadway for a 2-year period. Adoption partners keep the roads clean by picking up litter and cleaning graffiti. As thanks for this commitment to our island, partners are credited with adoption signs along their stretch of roadway. The adoption is shared in both broadcast and social media. Better yet, every time someone runs, bikes, walks, or drives by a sign, they can recognize the people who worked to maintain the cleanliness of our streets. Guam’s approximately 170 miles of highways and 600 miles of village roadways connect us with our friends, families, and loved ones. Thanks to the dedication of our 51 Partners, more than 1/3 of the 170 miles of Guam’s busy highways have been faithfully adopted.
- Comps For Kids: When the Lt. Governor was a senator, he created the Comps For Kids Program as a way to provide refurbished, used computers to public schools. Private businesses, government organizations, churches, and regular families donate their unwanted or recently replaced computers for donation. With the increase in technology available in our schools, this program has been expanded to donate to non-profit organizations in addition to schools. In 2013, 14 computers were donated, and 17 more are being refurbished for future distribution.
- Abandoned Buildings Initiative: Abandoned and unsafe buildings become targets for vandals and other crimes. The Lt. Governor is this administration’s overseer of public safety and the head of the Islandwide Beautification Task Force. This initiative fits in perfectly with the administration’s efforts to keep our island safe and beautiful. Keeping buildings maintained, regardless if they’re in use or not, will prevent crime and reduce eyesores that tarnish Guam’s image as a premier tourist destination. This program opens up the lines of communication between the government and business owners to address the problems caused by abandoned and unsafe buildings. Ultimately, it is up to the business or property owner to decide how to address the status of their building. Property owners are responsible for renovations, restorations, demolitions, or even just a fresh coat of paint. So far, this program has led to the demolition of the old Western Gun Club in Tumon. Three buildings in Tamuning: the HongKong Restaurant, the former Jerry’s clothing store and former Light’s disco are next on the program’s list to be addressed.
In addition to this work, IBTF also supports existing organizations with their mission to keep Guam clean and safe. These organizations and events include:
- GPD’s Litterbug Program
- Guam Coastal Cleanup
- Splash for Trash
- Guam EPA
- Various cleanups
We have the responsibility to keep our island in good hands for the future. Our economy depends on a clean, safe place to live, work and visit. Taking pride in our island keeps our trees healthy our oceans blue, and our skies clear. Guam’s beauty is actually one of the things that draws people to Guam, and lets them know how proud we are of the place they have chosen to visit. IBTF promotes taking ownership and responsibility of the place we call home. It’s about educating our community to care about our environment, to respect our land, and to build a better future for our children.
Education & Outreach
In order to maintain sustainable growth in environmental activities, the government of Guam and its non-profit partners must continue to educate and reach out to the general public about environmentalism. Last year was filled with numerous events, training, and other educational opportunities for Guamanians young and old.
As mentioned above, 3,449 people participated in the Guam 2012 Coastal Cleanup and cleared 20,766 pounds of trash from 21.7 miles of coastline. Final figures for 2013 are not available but participants initially assessed greater participation in the 2013 cleanup.
Many of these outreach events occurred in April 2013: Earth Month.
For instance, the Guam Community College teamed up with Guam EPA to provide the island’s law enforcement entities with an environmentally safe firing range that will also protect the northern Guam lens aquifer. GCC has provided free firing range services to local and federal law enforcement agencies for the past 25 years. In September 2012, the College secured a $5,000 grant from the National Rifle Association that funded an environmental assessment of the cost of lead reclamation and mitigation of the range. GCC has now entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Guam Environmental Protection Agency under which GEPA will provide $25,000 for cleanup and mitigation of the firing range.
In that same month, Guam EPA re-established a partnership with the Mayors Council of Guam to assist with cleanup efforts across the island. The partnership is funded through the Recycling Revolving Fund. Money from the Recycling Revolving Fund is used to fund cleanup efforts including the collection of abandon vehicles and other metal from areas across the island. This was a goal Guam EPA achieved in 2013.
A milestone program was launched during Earth Month 2013. Guam EPA partnered with the i*recycle Program to host the first Great Recycling Roundup in Guam. The event opened up the extended Agana Shopping Center parking lot for residents, organizations, and businesses to recycle their waste at no cost. Items that were recycled included:
- Plastics 1 and 2
- Steel cans (such as food and Mr. Brown cans) and small scrap metal items
- Fluorescent light bulbs
- Cooking oil
- Used motor oil
Finally, in January of this year, Guam EPA hosted training on General Use Pesticides (GUP) for farmers, landscapers and others who use or apply these chemicals. The training included detailed instructions about Guam’s pesticide regulations, requirements and mandates. It also stressed the importance of safety and how to appropriately respond during emergency situations involving pesticides. Guam EPA’s Pesticide Enforcement Program started teaching the CORE training on Tuesday for 20 individuals and concluded the course with a qualification exam.
Download the entire report here: Environment.