Coral Reef Problems & Issues
The Government of Guam agencies have failed for 34 years to bring the Baza Gardens Waste Water Treatment plant into conformity under Federal EPA standards. Since it was first installed in 1974, the residential housing infrastructure has more than tripled. The same treatment facility has remained as it has since it was installed without any expansion, renovations, or integrity chamber inspections. There is evidence of the existing facility overflowing perhaps during peak influent periods and heavy rainfall; allowing a significant percentage of untreated waste water to percolate, inject into the ground and perhaps contaminate any groundwater resources in the watershed itself. It is now the 21st century and millions of gallons of sewerage and waste water still pass through the noncompliant treatment plant operation each year. This same wastewater is not even considered fully treated under the definition as ‘primary’ (solids removal) as plastic solid waste has been seen to flow out from cracks and openings in the rocks at a lower elevation down from this facility and eventually into the Togcha River. This same effluent waste water also gives off a strong chlorine odor perhaps added to the water effluent as it leaves the treatment facility. This may disinfect the water of pathogens but the high nutrient levels remain unchanged as it eventually flows down stream and ultimately onto the Togcha coral reef platform and channel.
The nutrients from the treatment plant flows across the shallows and promotes the growth of blue-green alga and filamentous green alga. Vast expanses of this same alga cover the reef’s corals, macro-alga, and other natural marine life. During our seasonal low tides, the intense sun ‘bakes’ the over fertilized river banks and reef surfaces causing the resulting gases to assist the same blue-green alga to break loose from the bottom ‘gardens’ and rise to the surface of the water, collect / mass together with the help of tide and wind forces into large dark, slimy slicks that eventually floats to and deposits onto the shore line.
The smell of the decaying alga on the shoreline is extremely offensive and putrid to even my dogs that shy away from it. Our once pristine Togcha Bay coral reef shallows are being smothered and slowly dying from this alien type of alga growth allowed to blatantly take place here. I have been promised for over 25 years this situation would be fixed. Most recently they said two more years. Don’t believe it.
With the impending military build up here I see the only way to work with finding solutions is to have the Federal EPA force the GWA out of the waste water business by imposing fines and using those funds to implement an environmental impact assessment to study the best way to treat the historical waste water problems in our Ipan Talofofo area. Once a solution is determined we should then choose an experienced private sector wastewater engineering firm to work with the local population and businesses to implement and maintain those solutions and satisfy the environmental requirements.
~Jeff Pleadwell Togcha – Ipan Talofofo