Governor understands wastewater issues
Mayor shows poor form with statements
PROTECTING Hawaii's valuable natural resources requires a collaborative effort among federal, state, county and city officials, as well as private businesses, nonprofit organizations and island residents. The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant in Ewa does not meet federal water quality standards, specifically by discharging 27 million gallons of primary treated wastewater a mile and a half offshore of Barbers Point.
The governor believes the EPA's decision means improvements must be made to the facility to protect the integrity of Hawaii's fragile marine environment, which in turn affects the state's fisheries and the public's health. Unfortunately, Mayor Mufi Hannemann responded to her concern with unproductive, uninformed and inaccurate comments about the governor's level of knowledge that inject politics into proper environmental stewardship.
THE GOVERNOR is well informed about issues related to discharges from wastewater treatment plants, having dealt with the matter while serving on the Maui County Council and as mayor of Maui. It was during this time in the mid-1980s when Maui County completely stopped dumping wastewater into the ocean.
As residents of Hawaii know, the governor has made protecting the environment one of her administration's top priorities. She also is extremely familiar with EPA standards and the state maintains close contact with federal officials in Region IX and in Washington, D.C.
It is understandably difficult for a public official to acknowledge there is a water quality problem, face the prospect of spending millions of dollars to upgrade a wastewater treatment facility and consider raising residents' sewer fees to pay for it. But doing what's best for the environment requires accountability and bold leadership.
THE FACTS surrounding the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant are clear. The EPA stated the plant does not meet Clean Water Act requirements. Levels of bacteria, toxicity and ammonia in discharged water exceed national standards, according to recent testing. Other samples showed unacceptably high levels of the pesticides dieldrin and chlordane. The EPA report said the plant falls short of "water quality standards intended to protect marine life or human consumption of fish."
This is a serious analysis that can't be dismissed as incorrect or inconvenient. Relying on data from a 1996 study, as the mayor did, to refute the EPA's findings isn't sound science and shows once again the mayor's pattern of pushing the blame onto others.
Hawaii must be a national leader in caring for the ocean, given its importance to the entire environment, the economy and our way of life. When wastewater is discharged a mile and half offshore in water 200 feet deep, its treatment is an issue for all of our state's residents.
THE GOVERNOR has shown leadership with her previous and planned environmental actions. Moreover, she stated she would meet with the Region IX EPA to gain more detailed information and openly expressed a willingness to discuss various options with the mayor to find a way to work together to protect our ocean, islands and people.
It's time for the mayor to stop his pattern of disrespectful, highly political, vitriolic statements and learn to work with others.
Bob Awana is Gov. Linda Lingle's chief of staff.