Koror, Palau – Trial Court of Palau Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the Environmental Quality Protection Board and fined Palau Public Utilities Corporation (PPUC) $15,000 and ordered it to comply with EQPB’s regulation.
The judgment came as result of a suit filed by EQPB against PPUC for failure to provide people of Babeldaob with safe drinking water in compliance with EQPB Public Water Supply System Regulations.
The Court recognized the validity of EQPB Final Order No. 15-16, which was served to PPUC on July 31, 2015 after repeated failure to provide the people of Babeldaob with safe drinking water as required by the EQPB Public Water Supply System Regulations. The Court heard testimony provided by the EQPB Executive Officer Roxanne Blesam and Laboratory Technicians. The EQPB conducts monthly testing of chlorine, turbidity, and coliform bacteria from fifteen (15) different sites throughout Babeldaob, and found that the laboratory samples collected from these sites have continuously failed to meet some or all of EQPB’s water quality standards.
In its Decision, the Court stressed the role of the EQPB as the lone authority to promulgate and enforce primary drinking water regulations as well as undertake enforcement actions to address violations of any of its regulations.
The Court also determined that while PPUC is tasked to oversee water and wastewater operations within Palau, one of PPUC’s duties and responsibilities is to comply with regulatory requirements set by the EQPB. The Court sympathized with the challenges PPUC faces in improving water quality, but ultimately found that PPUC’s failure to meet EQPB’s water quality standards “results not from an inability to comply but rather from its failure to make compliance a priority “.
In the Judgment, the Court recognizes that EQPB Final Order No. 15-16 is valid and enforceable and placed a judgment against PPUC in the amount of $15,000 ($5,000 to be deposited into the EQPB Mitigation Fund and $10,000 earmarked towards implementing the short-term action plan).
With this Court Decision, PPUC must take immediate corrective actions to ensure that it provides safe drinking water to protect the health of the people of Babeldaob, notify residents when the public water is not safe for consumption, and submit short-term and long-term action plans to EQPB in addition to paying the $15000 penalty. It is through meeting the minimum water quality standards that health and safety is protected. [/restrict]