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CUC says it is diligently addressing US concerns

THE Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has been working diligently to address the issues of concern cited by the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental & Natural Resources Division Environmental Enforcement Section in the recent status report it filed in federal court.

In a statement, CUC said it “has been making use of [Environmental Protection Agency] grant funds to address a number of critical infrastructure repair projects. In every case, significant thought has been put into making sure that improvements provide not only rehabilitation of a failing asset, but also put new efficiencies in place. These will ultimately lead to expanding 24-hour water service island-wide, improved pressure island-wide, and a reduction in water main breaks caused by repeatedly turning off and on valves to fix leaks and scheduled water service hours.”

CUC admitted that wastewater is a big challenge, adding that the treatment facilities are in need of significant rehabilitation. But the lift stations that pump effluent to each treatment facility are being rehabilitated and new wireless connectivity is being added to improve site monitoring of those facilities, CUC said.

“Sanitary pipelines are in need of significant improvement, and efforts to rehabilitate sections of main will continue in small chunks as funds are made available,” CUC added.

Concerning the position of chief engineer previously held by John Riegel, CUC said it has advertised the position since July 2017 and applicants were vetted by EPA.

CUC said it has conditional approval from EPA for its water and wastewater master plan, but EPA is also asking for a commitment from CUC to fund the recommendations included in the master plan.

CUC said the only issue is establishing effective rates for both water and wastewater services that provide funding to pay for those recommendations.

“In general, CUC is well on the way to satisfying the elements of the master plan but, as we all know, these plans are long-term and the pace of progress depends on funding availability.”

Regarding capital spending on Saipan, Tinian and Rota, CUC said it has initiated 50 projects of which 32 are completed and the rest are works in progress.

CUC said the total value of EPA funded capital improvements have already reached to more than $40 million with an additional $20 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior and CIP under the Office of Planning and Development.

CUC said it is preparing plans, funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to invest in a hardening of the water system infrastructure such that when the next significant weather event occurs, at least 70 percent of the water sources will be available immediately following the event.

The project is targeted for completion in Aug. 2019, CUC said.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/101759-cuc-says-it-is-diligently-addressing-us-concerns

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