Violations cost state $52M
A federal consent decree sets new requirements for storm water controls
Federal and state agencies have reached an agreement with the Hawaii Department of Transportation over storm water violations that will cost the state about $52 million.
The federal consent decree announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday includes a $1 million penalty, $1 million to be spent on a new system to oversee environmental issues in the department and $60,000 for training construction contractors in storm water controls.
The department will also be required to spend an estimated $50 million during the next five years to fix federal Clean Water Act violations at the state's airports and highways, including updating storm sewer systems for Oahu's highways and imposing tighter monitoring of highway construction projects.
"Our administration agrees with the EPA that the environmental violations that took place between 1999 and 2002, prior to our coming into office, are unacceptable," Rod Haraga, director of the Department of Transportation, said in a statement. "Over the past 2 1/2 years, we have made necessary changes to help prevent these violations from occurring again."
The department plans to spend about $10 million a year to comply with the requirements, department spokesman Scott Ishikawa said. Most of the money will be spent on highway maintenance, the majority on Oahu, he said.
The spending, which has already been budgeted, includes a $3 million private contract for drain cleaning each year, a $1 million-a-year street sweeping contract that will increase the frequency to every five weeks from once every two or three months, and a $6.3 million-a-year, four-year contract for an environmental consultant who will create and monitor a statewide environmental program for the department's highways, airports and harbors divisions.
The department also must put together a report in the next six months that lists about 10 high priority erosion-control sites around the state, he said.
The department has already started stepping up inspections of construction projects on state highways to ensure contractors plug up storm drains during construction work, Ishikawa said.
The Department of Transportation agreement was reached with the state Department of Health, U.S. Department of Justice and EPA.
Under the federal consent decree, the Department of Transportation has 30 days to pay the penalty, with $600,000 to be paid to the Justice Department and $400,000 to be paid to the state's general fund. That money will go into an environmental response revolving fund that helps with oil spill cleanups and hazardous materials releases, said Laurence Lau, deputy director for environmental health with the state Department of Health, which is partially funded through grants from the EPA.
"We're pleased that the case has been resolved," Lau said. "We think and expect DOT will improve its system. They've already started to improve their system as a result of this case, which should lead to better water quality in the state."
The agreement requires the Transportation Department to hold compliance workshops for construction contractors in Hilo, Kona, Honolulu, Kapolei and on Kauai and Maui.
"It's very important for not only the coral reefs, but for everything that is in the watersheds of Hawaii," said Wayne Nastri, administrator of the EPA's Pacific Southwest region.
Storm water runoff from paved roads, construction sites and maintenance yards contains contaminants such as sediments, chemicals and oils that can pollute and damage waterways and coastal water areas.