SAIPAN, June 14, 2010 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. $140,000 for failing to properly submit a plan, as required by a stipulated order, for reorganizing CUC to bring its wastewater plants, collection systems and public drinking water systems into compliance.
Under the order, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands utility was required by September 2009 to submit a plan and schedule to improve the efficiency of its operations and make required organizational changes. To date, CUC has failed to submit the plan, despite repeated requests from EPA.
"As CUC has acknowledged, this plan establishes the management and organizational foundation CUC will need to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act," said Alexis Strauss, Water Division Director for EPA's Pacific Southwest region.
The order requires CUC to ensure lasting compliance through the reformation of CUC's management and operations; the development of a wastewater and drinking water master plan; development of financial plans; and the construction of water and wastewater infrastructure.
"EPA will continue to oversee CUC's implementation of these required improvements to bring long-needed environmental and public health gains to the islands," said Strauss.
This order also requires CUC to comply with its water discharge permits for the Agingan and Sadog Tasi wastewater plants and to implement changes to prevent sewer overflows. It similarly requires CUC to achieve compliance in its drinking water systems, which currently present a health risk to the public. A second order requires CUC to prevent oil spills at its power plants and pipeline, to comply with oil spill regulations, prepare to respond to oil spills, and provide appropriate cleanup for past and future oil spills. Failure to meet requirements of either order could subject CUC to further penalties.