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Tuesday, June 8, 2004



More tests on sludge
fertilizer urged

Council members are worried
that the material poses a risk
to the public's health


A researcher says additional testing is needed on fertilizer pellets made from sewage sludge to ensure there is no public health risk from a proposed $34 million plant at Sand Island.

The pellets were tested by University of Hawaii Water Resources Research Center researcher Roger Fujioka.

"In summary, the results of this study did not resolve many questions," he said in a report to the city last month.

City Councilmen Romy Cachola and Rod Tam said the city should not issue a building permit until tests conclusively show the pellets produced by Houston-based Synagro do not pose a risk to public health when applied to Oahu soil.

City administration officials and representatives of Synagro here and on the mainland did not return phone calls for comment.

Synagro representatives have said that their product and facilities have been proved safe.

The $34 million, egg-shaped sludge conversion plant that would be built and operated by Synagro would allow the city to recycle 25,000 tons of sludge a year from the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant instead of trucking it to the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.

Cachola and Tam said in a letter to the Harris administration Wednesday that what is missing in the Fujioka report is a declaration that the product is safe.

"As you know, the initial intent of this Council for the need to test the Synagro pellets was to ensure that the public's heath and safety would not be compromised," their letter said.

Fujioka is expected to present his findings to Tam's Public Works Committee at 9 a.m. next Tuesday. Fujioka declined comment until then.

"Don't proceed with this permit until we have this public hearing so that people can have opportunity to comment as to whether they're satisfied or not," Tam said yesterday.

Fujioka tested the pellets for disease-carrying microorganisms and also tested the pellets mixed with soil samples from two farms to see if the mixture promoted the growth of pathogens.

Fujioka reported that the test should be expanded to include other soil samples and conditions to better answer the questions posed to him, including whether salmonella can become established in some soil to the extent that it might cause a public health problem.

The project has been source of concern for community groups located near Sand Island.

Rodney Kim, executive director of the Sand Island Business Association, said his organization has also asked that the city not issue the building permit until the questions are answered.

Fujioka "cannot basically certify that his tests prove the product is safe when applied to Hawaiian soils," Kim said.

But Kim said he has seen a letter from Synagro that indicates it believes the test results are sufficient to move forward with the project.

"Their spin on this is, 'Look, Dr. Fujioka did the test; the test showed that the pellets met (Environmental Protection Agency) standards; the test shows there was no findings of any adverse results when the pellets were applied to Hawaii soil; therefore everything is fine,'" Kim said. "I think they're going to move forward as fast as they can."

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