Health: Navy Liable for Share of Guam Dump Clean-up Costs

The Story:

The Ordot dump, in the middle of the island of Guam in the western Pacific, was long a health threat to the people of the island, a US territory. The US Supreme Court ruled, last week, that the US Navy is in part responsible for the costs of cleaning it up under what is known as the Superfund statute.


In the summer of 1944, the US took back Guam from Japanese forces. For the following six years, the island would be under military governance.

In 1950, Guam acquired a civilian territorial government, which in turn took responsibility for the administration of the Ordot dump. (The Navy continued to use it until the 1970s.) The dump remained open until 2011, by which time it was obvious Ordot was leaching contaminants into surrounding ground waters.

In Pill Form:

The decision by the US Supreme Court May 24th is a difficult one to read. The dispute turned on specific statutory language that (depending on which lawyer you ask) either does or doesn’t impose a statute of limitations on these facts. But in the end, the high court ruled unanimously, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, that the statute of limitations does not apply. This allows Guam to proceed with a lawsuit that will determine the extent of the Navy’s share of liability.

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