Tropical Storm Chata'an: Residents feel powerless regarding electricity restoration on Guam

Report
from East-West Center
Published on 12 Jul 2002
From Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai'i

By Jojo Santo Tomas

HAG=C5TÑA, Guam (July 12, 2002 -Pacific Daily News) - Despite emotions ranging from nonchalance to downright bitterness, island residents interviewed yesterday seemed resigned to the idea they will not have power for weeks.

It's been a week since Typhoon Chata'an rendered Guam powerless with 100 mph-plus winds, winds that tore down utility poles and affected water and telephone services. Hundreds of people were also left homeless.

And while typhoons are nothing new to longtime locals, neither is the frustration of waiting for utility restoration. It's certainly been a frustrating week for Santa Rita resident Melanie Palomo.

"No water, no power. I have a generator loaned to me from work and for water, I go to my parents' house, but it's frustrating. At least water -- that's so essential," she said.

"But I don't understand what's taking the power so long to come on when this storm wasn't as bad as (Supertyphoon) Paka. Look around you. The damage isn't that bad. But after Paka, I had everything back in less than a week."

After describing the government's restoration effort as "poor," Palomo said their announcements haven't been any better.

"I just keep hearing six to eight weeks. But that's way too long," she said.

Alfred Manibusan, 41, is in a different boat. With a 10-kilowatt generator powering everything he needs in his Agafa Gumas home, and with water trickling, but steady, he's doing OK. He is inconvenienced, however, by having to buy 15 gallons of gasoline each day to keep his house running.

"I'm not going to let this situation get to me. I'm experienced in the stuff, ever since (Supertyphoon) Pamela," he said. "The government's doing OK. I think they're trying their best. Me, I'm just going to take this day by day."

Salvador Tarape, 50, of Dededo says his family of seven has had to change their eating habits. Instead of buying at cheaper bulk prices, he has to go grocery shopping every day.

"And if there's leftovers, too bad, I cannot store them," he said.

"But lucky I have three dogs."

Tarape said he has no idea when his power will be restored and is hoping it will be within two weeks.

Robyn Simmons, a 25-year-old Inarajan resident, took the day off yesterday to do laundry. She spent five hours in line before seeing the inside of the Laundromat, which meant five hours of baby-sitting her children Kyler and Kylean in intermittent rain.

"It's such a hassle. I'm totally stressed out, stressed out enough to say I'm renting a hotel room tonight, just so my kids can get a good night's sleep," she said.

"I really can't comment on what the government's doing to restore power because I don't see anything happening.

No power guys, no trucks. But there's no downed lines, so we should have power, right?"

Simmons says even though her children are bored and have quickly run out of things to do with no power, she's making the best of it.

"That means extra hugs and kisses and extra bedtime stories, until they fall asleep," she said.

Koreena Umagat, 22, of Mongmong placed the blame on Gov. Carl Gutierrez.

"Why doesn't he get up and do something? He's so privileged! Everyone's out suffering while he gets power and water. The people of Guam are always the last priority on the list," she said.

"And all this trash in the village -- the governor should be out there cleaning. And I'm not disappointed in the power crews. I can see how hard they're working. My best guess for power? Hmph. Next year."

Stacey Tenorio, 28, of Toto remains optimistic despite government reports early this week that said it could take as long as two months to restore power.

"I'm not disappointed in GPA, but there's not much damage, so I think they should get up and running soon," she said.

"I'm hoping that it won't take eight weeks, but yeah, I think that's how long it will take."

Mitch Sarmiento, 18 of Astumbo, is convinced it'll be a month before he'll be able to flip a working light switch.

"It's going a lot slower than Paka," he said. "Having no power sucks. I miss everything. I miss turning on the lights. I get so bored, nothing to do, so I just go to sleep."

Jose Taienao, 72, of Piti says he really doesn't care when the power comes back and says there is nothing to be gained by blaming anyone.

"We should be happy. Nobody died. But every individual has to be ready if you live in Guam," he said.

"We've been blessed for five years; that should be enough time to prepare. But don't blame nobody. That's not going to turn on the power."

GUAM POWER AUTHORITY LINES UP PRIORITIES, CREWS WORK TO CONNECT SHELTERS, 911 CENTER

By Theresa Merto

HAG=C5TÑA, Guam (July 12, 2002 -Pacific Daily News) - Guam Power Authority crews are working to get electricity on line at priority areas including the Naval Hospital and the 911 Center.

If that happens, nearby neighborhoods and businesses also may have their electricity restored, according to GPA officials yesterday.

Electricity was restored to Guam Memorial Hospital yesterday after it was cut by Typhoon Halong, said Eric Untalan, GPA assistant general manager for administration. That typhoon spared Guam Wednesday and blew past the southern end of Guam.

But Typhoon Chata'an was what brought the darkness to begin with. Chata'an battered Guam July 5 with winds in excess of 100 mph, causing massive damage and leaving the island without electricity and with no to low water pressure.

"We are looking right now at re-establishing power to the areas that had it prior to (Halong)," Untalan said.

The hospital and areas in Tamuning, Dededo and Tumon had electricity Monday night, but lost it during Halong because of a "moisture" problem at the Tumon substation, Untalan said. Residents in parts of Tamuning reported electricity was restored by late yesterday afternoon.

"Our crews have gone back to the field as of first light. They are starting to do their repairs and assessments again," Untalan said. "As we start restoring power, we have primary targets."

Schedule

The power authority plans to release a schedule of which villages will have electricity, but does not know yet when the information will be available.

"As soon as we are able to firm one up, I will share that information. We will announce ... areas that are very close to being energized," Untalan said.

"We at Guam Power Authority are anxious to turn the power on, too. We want to make people happy. We want to keep moving and moving fast."

He said the power authority has enough supplies for recovery efforts. Full power restoration still is expected to take up to two months, Untalan said.

Restoring power

Untalan said priority areas include the Office of Civil Defense, Naval Hospital, the 911 Center in Tiyan, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and typhoon shelters. Surrounding areas also may get electricity, Untalan said.

He did not know how soon crews will be able to restore electricity in those areas.

"As we clear the transmission lines to go up there, obviously those places are not going to provide significant loads, so we are going to need to pick up neighborhoods and other parts of the villages to provide us that load," Untalan said.

"So there are going to be people along that transmission path that will benefit from us reaching out to the priority areas."

Assessments

GPA crews have assessed about 30 percent of main transmission lines, 50 percent of sub-transmission lines, and about 10 percent of primary lines, Untalan said.

Untalan said main transmission lines carry a "big load of power."

"It carries the most amount that goes up and down the island but it does not go to every single neighborhood," Untalan said. "What branches off from the main transmission line are the sub-transmission lines. Those carry the power out in the direction of the different communities and areas of Guam."

"The primary line carries power even deeper into the community, where it runs by your house."

He said transmission lines have to be repaired first.

"Because if we go and repair all the other (lines) going to the houses, but we don't have a way to get the power from the power plant to the house, what is the use of doing it that way?" Untalan explained.

"It doesn't make sense. So we start with the main transmission, then the sub-transmission, then the primary lines. We've got to follow it in that order."

Challenge

Untalan said the power authority faces the challenge of clearing the transmission lines.

"If people see a GPA truck or crew driving by their house, and they are trying to wave them down ... the reason they are driving by is because they are going to a higher-priority place -- it might be a main transmission line or a sub-transmission line," Untalan said.

"If our crews don't fix those main lines first, it is going to take longer to get power to your house.

That is the most efficient way we can ensure our customers we are acting as quickly and efficiently as possible in getting power to their homes."

GUAM WATER SERVICE SHIFTED AMONG RESIDENTS

By Theresa Merto

HAG=C5TÑA, Guam (July 12, 2002 -Pacific Daily News) - It remains uncertain when the island's water will be fully restored.

But the Guam Waterworks Authority is shifting water around so residents will have water at certain times during the day.

"They are pumping water throughout the system," said John Ryan, governor's communications director. "They are trying to move water ... so every village has access to water at some point during the day, or part of the day."

Meanwhile, the Navy has not been able to provide water to Waterworks because of high sediment levels from Typhoon Chata'an.

The typhoon battered Guam July 5 with 100 mph-plus winds, causing massive damage and leaving the island without electricity and with low to no water pressure.

No water

Some residents in villages such as Malojloj, Inarajan, Merizo and Umatac experienced water problems when Typhoon Halong made its way past Guam. The Ugum Water Treatment Plant experienced generator problems Wednesday during the height of the typhoon, said Gil Shinohara, GWA acting general manager.

"The system is back and running, ... the affected villages ... will be provided with service and be fully restored," Shinohara said.

He said parts of villages including Tamuning, Agana Heights, Barrigada and Santa Rita continue to have no water because the Navy stopped supplying the agency with water.

"These are areas that are supplied by Navy, and we are getting zero supply at this point," Shinohara said. "Water will be fully restored, dependent on the Navy opening up the meters that service us."

"Our crews continue to go out and make the assessment with a (Federal Emergency Management Agency) team," Shinohara said.

The authority doesn't know what percentage of the island has water. It also hasn't established a time line as to when water will be fully restored. Damage assessments and repairs are ongoing.

GWA and National Guard water tankers are stationed throughout the island.

Navy

The Navy is still unable to provide water to GWA.

"Typhoon Chata'an caused massive amounts of rainfall to deluge the Fena watershed, eroding the shoreline and stirring up the silt on the bottom of the Fena Reservoir," a Navy press release said.

"This created extremely high sediment levels in the reservoir, which exceed the capability for removal by the Public Works Center Guam water treatment plant."

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulatory standards require sediment removal for potable water production, the release said. The regulations are set, in part, to manage potential health concerns, because bacteria can attach themselves to sediment, passing through the system to the consumer, the release said.

"PWC has tried to process and remove the sediment from the reservoir water but was not successful," the release said. "The water treatment plant became overloaded with solids and the filters clogged."

Water restrictions

Under normal conditions, the Navy's Public Works Center uses water from Fena Reservoir augmented by Bona Springs and Almagosa Springs. The release said that until sediment clears from the water in Fena Reservoir, only water from the two small springs can be processed by the water treatment plant.

The total output of both springs is less than the Navy's critical minimum consumption for drinking water, sanitation uses and water to meet its operational needs.

The Navy has issued a mandatory water conservation measure notice to reduce strictly water consumption and forbid excessive use, to allow base residents water pressure for drinking and sanitation uses, the release said.

The Navy's Public Works Center has cut water to many Navy administrative and industrial facilities but still does not have sufficient water to supply all Navy housing areas and the Naval Hospital.

Potable-water tankers and portable toilets have been stationed in various Navy housing and administrative areas to support minimum health and sanitation needs until the water in Fena Reservoir can be processed, the release stated.

"Until the sediment settles out at its natural pace, the Navy will remain under severe water restrictions and have to rely on the water from the springs and use the tanker trucks," the release said.