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DPW, lawmakers discuss Marpi landfill issues

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DEPARTMENT of Public Works officials led by Secretary James Ada met with House members on Wednesday to discuss the situation at the Marpi landfill.

DPW Solid Waste Management acting Director Blas Mafnas said to extend the life span of the landfill, there must be proper compaction of the cells and waste diversion.

The cells are where the trash is stored within the landfill.

Mafnas said the compactor at the landfill “is occasionally on and off.” DPW, he added, had been pressing the contractor, Tangs Corp., “to fix the equipment once and for all, rather than resorting to Band-Aid solutions.”

Without proper compaction, “we are losing a lot of [landfill] space,” Mafnas told the lawmakers.

The CNMI government is paying the contractor over $942,000 a year or $78,000 a month for the proper operation of the landfill.

House members meet with Department of Public Works officials to discuss concerns regarding the Marpi landfill on Wednesday.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Mafnas said Tangs Corp.’s contract expired in October, but it was granted a three-month extension which ended on Wednesday.

Right now, he said, five companies have submitted proposals to operate the Marpi landfill.

Aside from the lack of reliable equipment, Mafnas said Cell 2 has to be rehabilitated due to a problem with a water pump.

Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero said when he visited the landfill, he noticed that there was no barricade around Cell 2.

“A barricade will make sure that debris from Cell 1 doesn’t fall into Cell 2,” he added.

House Minority Leader Edwin Propst asked about the ability of the Lower Base transfer station to sort out recyclables.

Department of Public Works Solid Waste Management acting Director Blas Mafnas, second left, background, answers questions from House members about Marpi landfill issues during a meeting in the speaker’s conference room on Wednesday.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Mafnas said people or companies that collect garbage are supposed to go to bring recyclables to the transfer station, but they usually go directly to the landfill to dump their trash including the recyclables, he added.

Propst said the challenge for most members of the community now, is to segregate their trash which not a lot of people are doing.

DPW Administrative Services Director Peter Camacho asked lawmakers to revisit a proposal to create a recyclable redemption program in which people can earn money from recyclable wastes such as bottles and cans.

Camacho believes that this program can help extend the lifespan of the landfill.

In an interview after the meeting, Mafnas told reporters that the total area of landfill can accommodate six cells. The federal government, through capital improvement project funds, helped the CNMI construct two cells.

“So we got space for four more cells. However, if we do our part in waste diversion we won’t have to be asking for more money to construct more cells,” Mafnas said.

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