Jan 15, 2009

Honolulu Required to Upgrade Wastewater Plants

EPA will not renew variances exempting Sand Island and Honoliuli plans from secondary treatment requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in early January that it issued its final decision to not renew Honolulu’s variances exempting two wastewater treatment plants at Sand Island and Honouliuli from full secondary treatment requirements, according to Pacific Business News. The city and county of Honolulu will now be required to upgrade the plants.

The potential costs of upgrading the Sand Island plant, located in Honolulu, and the Honouliuli plant, in Ewa, could be greater than $1.2 billion, city officials have said.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann is disappointed, but not surprised, at the EPA’s decision, he said in a prepared statement.

“Every indication was that the EPA would decline to renew the waivers these plants have operated under for so long, so today’s decision was not unexpected,” Hannemann said in the statement. “However, we had hoped that the EPA would reconsider its tentative decision, in light of the overwhelming evidence presented by our local scientists and engineers that secondary treatment at these plants is not necessary or beneficial. We will review the final decision, and in all likelihood seek a review, as provided for by the EPA regulations.”

Installing secondary treatment facilities would require significant increases in residential sewer fees, Hannemann said.

The discharges from the Sand Island and Honouliuli plants did not meet the Clean Water Act’s conditions for renewed variances because neither of the plants’ discharges protect recreational use or marine life in the vicinity of the ocean outfalls, the EPA said.

“This action will ensure that residents and visitors using Hawaii’s ocean waters are protected from inadequately treated sewage,” Wayne Nastri, the EPA’s administrator for the Pacific Southwest region, said in a statement. “We will work with the city on a realistic schedule to upgrade its two largest wastewater plants, taking into account the other priorities for improvements to Honolulu’s wastewater system.”

Hannemann has said he would rather focus on repairing and upgrading the extensive network of sewer pipes that feed into the treatment plants, Pacific Business News reported.