THREE options are on the table for disposing off Tinian solid waste: incineration, Fukuoka method or off-island disposal.
The Marine Forces Pacific recently held an ad hoc committee meeting with the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, Tinian Mayor’s Office, Department of Public Works and Administration representatives at the BECQ office on Middle Road to map out the directions to take relating to the potential solid waste solutions beneficial for both the military and the civilian population.
In light of the ongoing National Environmental Policy Act process on the construction of ranges and training areas on Tinian, the Marine Forces Pacific examined these options and discussed these with the CNMI.
In analyzing these options, the U.S. military held the assumption that the current dumpsite located at Puntan Diablo on Tinian — the area where the Chinese group of investors is planning to develop into an integrated resort — will be closed and that a transfer station is being considered.
MARFORPAC environmental specialist Sherri Eng said the dumpsite is not something that the military will be able to use.
Just by looking at the requirements and the benefits of the options explored, Eng said that the easiest would be the off-island disposal.”
In choosing the off-island disposal option, the parties will have to look into the capacity of the Marpi landfill to accommodate the waste coming from Tinian — both military and civilian waste.
Eng, in a meeting with the local regulatory agencies and officials walked them through the three systems being considered.
Option 1: Incineration
Eng said the system that calls for the use of incinerator or waste-to-energy system requires a “properly sized incinerator,” fenced site, ash landfill, wastewater disposal, trained operators and secondary disposal site for C&D or construction and demolition waste, green waste, recyclables and white goods.
She said that this system could lead to significant waste reduction and energy production.
However, there are challenges to be met: siting and permitting, maintaining consistent operations, the need for sorting and waste monitoring, high initial cost, high maintenance cost and long timeline for construction.
“Construction timeline is long. It is not something that we can set up tomorrow,” said Eng.
Department of Public Works Secretary Martin C. Sablan mentioned about the CNMI getting an incinerator which it never used owing to the difficulty of permitting through the regulatory agencies.
“Permitting was a problem,” said Sablan.
Option 2: Fukuoka Landfill
The Fukuoka landfill is a new approach to handling solid waste. It is a semi-aerobic landfill with a leachate collecting pipe set up at the landfill floor that drains the leachate to a treatment facility.
This method does not require a synthetic liner.
But if this were to be pursued, Tinian will need an additional 15 hectares and the use of specific construction material.
The MARFORPAC representatives said they have conducted research on this method.
It was done in Palau, Yap and American Samoa but nowhere else in the continental United States due to permitting.
“We have to get some kind of waiver,” said Eng citing that it is not a permitted system in the U.S.
But with Fukuoka method, there is a potential to convert the existing dumpsite on Tinian.
As for leachate, the military is considering to upsize its waste water treatment facility to accommodate this if this were the option to consider.
As the Fukuoka landfill will need clay, Eng said their research showed the lack of this material on Tinian; however, it was suggested there’s a source in Papago.
Option 3: Off-island disposal
This option proposes to utilize the existing Marpi landfill.
With this option, Eng said there will be no additional land requirements.
She said this centralizes waste management system on Saipan.
But Eng was quick to point out that among the challenges will be how to deal with the perception that Saipan becomes a dumping ground.
The military also sees the need to upgrade shipping infrastructure.
“We’re willing to accept military waste,” said DPW Secretary Martin C. Sablan.
He said they had excavated the ground to construct the third cell of the landfill facility.
With this option, Eng assured that “whatever we do, we are going to take the Tinian waste with us.”
Asked by DPW if the military were to foot the bill for shipping and transfer of the waste, Eng said, “We agree to find the solution and hope to find the solution.” She said she could not commit to anything.
Sablan said it will cost less for the military to bring their waste to Saipan but the municipality will be needing assistance.
Feasibility study for three options?
Eng pointed out that the options has to be brought down to two.
“I don’t think we have the time and money to do all three,” she said.
Transfer station is key
As they mulled the potential solutions to Tinian’s solid waste issues, Eng said it is assumed that there will be a transfer station.
“Transfer station is important in all these sytems,” she said.
Closure of the dumpsite
Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz pointed out that it is not the responsibility of the developer to close the existing dumpsite at Puntan Diablo.
He, however, said that Alter City has committed to providing up to $5 million in assistance.
Asked by CIP’s Elizabeth Balajadia if they could continue to use the dumpsite for five more years, Tinian Mayor’s Office chief of staff Don Farrell said “five years is too long.”
Mayor Dela Cruz said three years would be reasonable.
“That will allow the developer to work on the adjacent property,” he said.
Alter City Group is proposing to build a golf course at the current site of the dumpsite.
Alter City committed to assist
At a hearing before the CNMI legislature last week, Alter City’s legal counsel Rober Torres said, “Investor is motivated to assist in its removal.”
But he said the government too has to pitch in.