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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawaii Department of Health are seeking penalties of $4,000 from the County of Maui for a spill of 1.4 million gallons of treated wastewater from the Kahului Wastewater Plant in late December 2006.
“While we are very concerned about such a large volume of sewage spilled, we trust Maui County will take all necessary corrective actions to prevent future spills.” said Alexis Strauss, director for the EPA Pacific Southwest Region’s Water Division. “Throughout the islands, it’s vital that wastewater systems be closely monitored, and very well-maintained, to prevent sewage spills to Hawaii’s streams and ocean waters.”
The spill was caused by a break in the berm surrounding the wastewater storage pond. The spill washed away sand at the site, damaging the storage pond structure, plant access road, and perimeter fencing at the facility.
The wastewater flowed directly to the ocean and surrounding areas and the HDOH posted warning signs. A person coming into contact with contaminated water could experience gastrointestinal infections, and skin or ear infections.
“A sewage spill of this size is very troubling and even more so when it contaminates state waters,” said Laurence Lau, deputy director for Environmental Health at the Hawaii Department of Health. “We are currently investigating the operations of the county’s wastewater system to see how this type of incident can be prevented.”
In addition to the fine, the county has 30 days to submit an engineering analysis of what caused the break and outline measures to prevent future spills. The fine will be split between the HDOH and the EPA.
The fine stems from a 1999 consent decree between the county, state and the EPA to address sewer spill issues from the county’s wastewater system. The county completed a required spill reduction plan, and is currently working on a 10-year sewer line analysis and rehabilitation program.