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Groundwater Monitoring on Guam: Management Responses to Recent Water Quality Violations

Denton, Gary R.W., Sian-Denton, Carmen M.
Ground water monitoring & remediation 2010 v.30 no.2 pp. 127-133
groundwater, environmental monitoring, water quality, limestone, aquifers, groundwater recharge, groundwater contamination, drinking water, nitrates, trichloroethylene, chlordane, ethylene dibromide, Escherichia coli, remediation, tetrachloroethylene, Guam
Guam has one of the finest limestone aquifers in the world. Located in the northern half of the island, this vital underground resource supplies the local community with about 80% of its drinking water needs. The majority of the island's approximately 180,000 inhabitants live in the northern half of the island where significant economic growth and urban development have occurred over the last 30 years. The U.S. military has also occupied large tracts of land in this region for the past 60 years. The risks of groundwater contamination are, therefore, very real considering the population density in northern Guam and the rapid recharge rates to the underlying aquifer. Since April 1996, Guam Waterworks Authority (GWA) has regularly monitored the island's drinking water resources for chemical and biological contaminants in accordance with the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. This report summarizes and compares the groundwater data sets for two discrete time intervals: 1996 through 2001 and 2002 through 2007 for chemicals, and 1997(8) through 2002 and 2003 through 2007 for bacteria. Adaptive management strategies that evolved to deal with contaminant violations over this time frame are critically discussed. Overall, 95% of all GWA's drinking water production wells were considered to be in relatively good shape from a chemical standpoint. Identified chemicals of concern were chlordane, ethylene dibromide, perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and nitrate. The microbiological integrity of Guam's groundwater was, by comparison, less impressive prior to 2003 because of numerous wastewater spills, leaks, and overflows. Improved management practices introduced shortly afterward have significantly reduced the incidence of Escherichia coli contamination in recent years.