EPA commits to improving water quality in Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands

October 26, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $9 million to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to help fund its continued efforts to protect human health and the environment. $6.7 million will go to the islands' utility provider for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure support, with an additional $2.3 million being issued to CNMI's Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality (BECQ).

"This much-needed funding will help the CNMI provide cleaner, safer drinking water, while protecting its coral reefs," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "We will continue to support CNMI's efforts to ensure a better environment for the residents of CNMI."

This past summer, drinking water in CNMI was compromised by Typhoon Soudelor. With the $6.7 million grant, the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC), which services all residents of CNMI, will strengthen its drinking water system to better withstand the impact of such damaging storms.

To this end, the funds will be used to provide 24 hour service to CUC customers, improve drinking water quality, prevent water pollution and complete water infrastructure projects. In particular, these projects include water storage tank replacements and repairs, waterline replacements, sewer lift station renovations and sewer system improvements that will improve the overall water quality on the islands.

Of the $2.3 million granted to BECQ, $1.9 million was delivered in July and another $400,000 is being awarded now. BECQ, whose mission is to protect human health and the environment on CNMI, will use the funds to bolster their program of environmental conservation. Their efforts include:

  • Performing inspections
  • Cleaning up formerly contaminated areas for productive use
  • Monitoring the safety of pesticide use
  • Ensuring clean beaches and safe drinking water
  • Protecting coral reef from runoff and sedimentation
  • Cleaning up polluted streams

CNMI, located north of Guam in the Pacific Ocean, is one of five inhabited American insular areas, and one of two territories with "commonwealth" status. It is included in the EPA's Pacific Southwest Region, which serves the 50 million residents of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands and 148 tribal nations.

With the funding, the EPA will focus on: 

  • Ensuring safe, reliable drinking water
  • Making coastal waters safe for fishing, swimming and marine life
  • Protecting coral reefs and public health by monitoring beaches and water quality and implementing recently updated Water Quality Standards
  • Cleaning up Saipan's watersheds by reducing pollution
  • Conducting radon assessments
  • Implementing a Conservation Action Plan to reduce and mitigate storm water runoff
  • Regulating pesticide use
  • Inspecting fuel storage tanks in order to prevent fuel leaks

Because of how rapidly they can change, staying on top of and following EPA regulations and policies can be difficult and time consuming. Hiring environmental consultants can help you better understand the latest government trends and regulations, and find quick, cost effective ways to meet them.