Controversial bill on septic tanks over the aquifer set for a vote | News

On Tuesday, senators moved the hotly debated bill to third reading by a vote of 175-37 so it could be voted on later during the current legislative session.

In addition, US Attorney General Douglas Moylan recommended that the bill be sent back to committee. He said that further research and expert opinion were needed “before the existing lot size scheme should be changed.”

Senator Chris Duenas' bill, which would allow for increased land density, including over the northern Lens Aquifer, was the subject of a highly controversial debate led by Environment Committee Chair Senator Sabina Perez.

Perez said protecting Guam's most important source of drinking water is “non-negotiable.”

Bill 175-37 would allow the subdivision of lands upon the death of heirs or upon the death of their parents into lots of at least 9,600 square feet in size, provided that a modern, nitrogen-reducing on-site disposal system, known as a Type 4 system, certified by the Guam Environmental Protection Agency is used.

In his closing remarks, Duenas said the bill has the support of the three key regulators – the University of Guam Water and Environment Institute, the Guam EPA and the Guam Waterworks Authority – “because they wrote it.”

The controversy surrounding the bill began long before it reached the plenary session.

Duenas had complained that Perez's bill was held up in committee, and he succeeded in removing it from the vote by a majority vote in the Rules Committee, despite the lack of a committee report.

In the plenary session, Perez proposed several amendments that she said were aimed at protecting the aquifer. This led to lengthy discussions and led supporters of the bill to accuse her of wanting to “destroy the aquifer.”

The debate also drew community members to the Congressional chamber who were both against and for the bill, 175-37.

Duenas thanked members of a brokerage group for their support of the landowners, but some senators criticized them for their alleged selfish motives.

Duenas said the real estate agents “felt like they were being demonized just for trying to help these people who wanted to achieve their dream.”

The bill is expected to be voted on by the end of this session.

Duenas said he spoke with acting Governor Joshua Tenorio.

“If you work with the regulators and amend the bill and it meets the legal requirements, we will sign it,” Duenas quoted the incumbent governor as saying, pledging his support.

The bill also establishes a Wastewater Disposal Assistance Fund, to be administered by the Guam EPA, to “provide financial assistance for improved access to compliant wastewater disposal systems or sewer connections.”

Guam law requires all buildings to be connected to a sewer system, if one is available.

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