SAIPAN - Bradley R. O'Brien, senior attorney of the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, told the federal court that the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is expected to receive $10.4 million in federal funds for water and wastewater improvements in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yutu.
In Nov. 2008, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited CUC for violation of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, the District Court for the NMI issued:
• Stipulated Order 1: focuses on drinking water issues.
• Stipulated Order 2: focuses on oil issues such as requiring CUC to repair and replace oil storage and operation infrastructure, manage tank and pipeline facilities, and require spill and emergency response equipment and protocols.
The stipulated orders also require the parties to provide the federal court with status reports on CUC projects.
In his latest status report, O’Brien noted that under the court’s guidance, “substantial SO1 progress has been made utilizing federal grant moneys, especially relating to CUC providing drinking water on a 24-hour basis to all CNMI residents.”
According to O’Brien, “CUC historically sustains lengthy vacancies in management positions thereby impeding CUC’s operations and compliance with the Orders.”
More than five years ago, only 26% of the Saipan population experienced continuous 24-hour drinking water, his report stated.
CUC recently informed EPA that approximately 96% of Saipan currently benefits from 24-hour drinking water, the report states.
Regarding the repair of leaks in the drinking water system, “CUC continues to report that it is not billing customers adequately to cover the costs of service.”
CUC said only 37% of drinking water produced, pumped, and chlorinated by CUC is being billed to customers and generating revenue.
CUC reported it is losing approximately 200 million gallons per month of produced water. The cost associated with the lost water is passed on to paying customers. The reasons for this loss include leaks, water theft and failed water meters, officials stated.