Wastewater plant meets air standards
The most scenic drive on Oahu is between the Blow Hole and Hanauma Bay. The East Honolulu Wastewater Treatment Plant there, at 7 a.m., just generates a terrible smell that wafts onto Sandy Beach. I read about how the state Department of Health fined the city for smells coming from the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. I'd like to know why nothing can be done about the smell coming from the East Honolulu plant, especially because it's such a scenic drive and important to Honolulu and the tourism industry.
Answer: It may be smelly, but the East Honolulu Wastewater Treatment Plant is not exceeding the state's air quality standards, according to state officials.
The privately owned plant was inspected Wednesday and found by the Clean Air Branch "not to be in violation of the state's ambient air standards," said Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the Department of Health.
Asked if odors emanating from the East Honolulu plant could be considered "reasonable," he said the Clean Air Branch does not have such a standard.
Instead, Cheplic said any member of the public with concerns or complaints about odors from any wastewater treatment plant "is encouraged" to contact the Clean Air Branch at 586-4200 and it will investigate.
The department relies on self-monitoring, complaints and unannounced annual inspections to see if a facility is complying with Clean Air Branch regulations.
The East Honolulu plant is not owned by the city; it is owned and operated by Hawaii American Water Co., Cheplic noted.
However, it doesn't matter whether a wastewater treatment plant is privately or publicly owned in regard to complying with ambient air standards or, depending on the plant's size, complying with clean-air permit requirements, Cheplic said.
In the case of Sand Island, the city self-reported that the plant intermittently had exceeded its hydrogen sulfide limits between February 2003, and December 2004. It was fined $542,000.
Hydrogen sulfide has an odor of rotten eggs and is a gaseous compound formed by the decomposition of organic matter in the absence of oxygen, explained Jill Stensrud, environmental health specialist for the Clean Air Branch.
"The hydrogen sulfide permit limit was exceeded at the fence line of (the city's) property on Sand Island Access Road," she said.
The Clean Air Branch annually inspects four waste-water treatment facilities -- at Sand Island, Honouliuli, Kailua and Kaneohe. They are the only four in the state that are required to operate with clean-air branch permits, Stensrud said.
The four facilities are required to report whenever they exceed limits set by their permits.
Other wastewater treatment plants in the state are exempt from having such permits because of the relatively low amounts of air pollutants emitted.
However, Stensrud explained, all wastewater treatment facilities are required to meet the state's ambient air standards.
Q: Will the restrooms in Waikiki be open tomorrow, Halloween night? Halloween is the biggest party in Waikiki all year long and thousands of people are expected. The city has kept restrooms open the last couple of years, but previous to that, they closed them and people ended up peeing and pooping on the beach, and we don't need that.
A: Two public restrooms under the purview of the city Department of Parks and Recreation will remain open for "extended hours" tomorrow night to accommodate the anticipated crowds, said Dana Takahara-Dias, deputy director of the department.
It's a cooperative effort involving the Parks Department, the Honolulu Police Department and the Waikiki Business Improvement District, she said.
The two restrooms are by the Waikiki Police Station.
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