Wednesday, March 26, 2003

City warned again
on Sand Island plant

By Diana Leone

Last September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threatened hefty fines against the city for allowing unacceptable levels of pesticides and enterococcus bacteria to be discharged into the ocean from the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

City & County of Honolulu

Under threat of potential fines of up to $27,500 per day per violation, the EPA ordered the city to submit detailed plans for meeting the terms of its wastewater treatment plant permit.

But the compliance plans aren't good enough, according to a March 19 order for compliance the EPA issued to the city and made public Monday.

"It lacks sufficient detail. That's why we're asking them to revise it" within 30 days, said Jo Ann Cola, an environmental engineer with the EPA's Region 9 Clean Water Act Compliance Office.

While fines are still "definitely possible," Cola said, "my sense really is that they will give the best effort they can to comply. I'm hoping that's the case and I think it is."

Based on its review of documents submitted by the city in November and December and a plant inspection Feb. 11, the EPA wants completion schedules for a variety of improvement projects at Sand Island.

One key shortcoming is the delay of an ultraviolet disinfection treatment that was supposed to be operating last July. The EPA says in its latest order that the city claims both that the unit will be ready in October 2004 -- a year later than is specified in the city contract -- and that a "definitive schedule cannot be obtained."

Until the ultraviolet unit is functional, the city cannot meet EPA standards for enterococcus, said Libby Stoddard, an engineer with the state Department of Health's Clean Water Branch, which also oversees sewage plants.

Enterococcus bacteria are from the intestine and can cause serious infections, including those of the urinary tract, abdominal cavity and heart valve.

Other violations include higher-than-allowed volumes of pesticides chlordane and dieldrin in sewage effluent and equipment problems, construction delays and incomplete information.

"They're in noncompliance," Stoddard said. "And that's not good when you're going into permit review."

The city must apply in May for a new EPA permit that would take effect in November.

City officials were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Environmental Protection Agency
City & County of Honolulu

E-mail to City Desk


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