‘It’s frustrating’: Students haul car parts, air conditioners and trash bags out of an illegal dumpsite | Guam News
On Saturday, students at John F. Kennedy High School filled two trailers and two trucks with car doors, toilet seats, air conditioners, refrigerators and garbage bags.
And their work is not finished.
“There’s still a lot left,” said Carolyn Haruo, professor of marine biology. “We’re going back next week.”
The class participates in the Ocean Guardian School program, run by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The program encourages students and their families to participate in activities that help protect local watersheds, world oceans, marine reserves and sanctuaries.
Saturday’s cleanup was the class’s fourth effort to pick up trash around the Tamuning area; they walked along Marine Crops Drive to Chinese Park and down the hill to Tumon as part of their previous efforts. On Saturday, they were supposed to stay on the JFK side of Marine Corps Drive, but Haruo said the students saw trash near the road across the street, so they widened their work area.
“My group was just supposed to do the sidewalks, but the more we followed the trash, the more we found,” Haruo said.
The area they entered is notorious for illegal dumping. And it has been cleaned up by various groups over the years.
The kids ended up carrying four doors for different vehicles, an assortment of auto parts, white goods and black trash bags found in kitchens all over the island.
Haruo said different groups of students noticed that the areas they had cleared were only being ransacked again.
“They expressed frustration at having to clean up after other people,” she said. Haruo shared her own experiences cleaning up areas around the island. Last year, after cleaning a roadside in Dededo with family and friends, they found a discarded couch in the area they had cleaned hours earlier.
“It’s frustrating,” she says, agreeing with her students.
Education and empowerment
Haruo said his students will soon be working on another aspect of their project.
“What we’re trying to do is educate people on how to dispose of their trash,” she said.
One of the things discussed, she said, is the cost of waste. She said students noticed that not all homes had trash cans, which cost about $30 a month with the Guam Solid Waste Authority.
“It’s a topic that we discussed, … how maybe people can’t afford it and therefore people throw away their trash because of the cost,” Haruo said.
“It may not cost them anything to dump in these areas, but we pay a cost with our environment.”
Compulsory garbage collection planned
Board chairman Andrew Gayle said mandatory island-wide rubbish collection could start as early as this year “if all goes well”, based on an optimistic timetable.
“That remains to be seen, but that is our intention,” Gayle told lawmakers during a confirmation hearing for her appointment to the GSWA board in January. “That’s one of the things that…I think is important that we pursue. And I’ll work with the management team to help make that happen.”
Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio, who leads the island’s beautification task force, praised the efforts of teachers and students.
“These students show love for their island and their school. It’s a shame that a small segment of our population shows contempt and disrespect,” he said.
“Efforts are underway to empower these people with expanded enforcement of waste and landfills. They better change their ways.”
The administration is working on ways to hold accountable people who dispose of their trash illegally.
Tenorio has already taken note of Public Law 36-61, which builds enforcement capacity to combat illegal dumping. He said there have been discussions about setting up training for officials who will issue citations. The lieutenant governor also said he would like to see an aggressive law enforcement year.