Like tossing your money down the ...
THERE was a familiar ring to the howls of outrage coming from City Hall last week.
The problem is we dump most of our wastewater -- 41 billion gallons a year, according to the city -- out into the ocean.
The sewage gets primary treatment, which means that the heavy stuff dropping to the bottom of those tanks out at Sand Island and Honouliuli is trucked to the Waimanalo landfill, much to the annoyance of the folks in Waianae.
The water, much to the annoyance of the Environmental Protection Agency, is then flushed out to sea.
Back in the first decade of Earth Days, it was former Mayor Frank Fasi who was besieged by the federal EPA and its insistence that we do a better job of treating the sewage we dump in the ocean.
"It is not that bad," Frank Fasi would insist, much like Mayor Mufi Hannemann says today, decades later. Same pipes, same treatment, but now the EPA has wearied of Honolulu saying "It doesn't hurt anything."
At one time New York City dumped all its garbage in the ocean, until New Jersey, tired of having the medical waste of Manhattan on its beaches, sued and won.
Today the EPA is asking Honolulu to bring the treatment from primary to secondary, because the water discharged more than a mile off shore and 200 feet deep doesn't meet EPA standards.
Hannemann, like Fasi, insists no one goes there, the stuff washes away and dilutes, it's not a hazard and besides, it would cost billions to fix. Hannemann estimates the average sewer bill, which has been raised twice since he took office, would go up to $3,600 a year.
Honolulu, with Hannemann at the helm, already is known to surfers and the EPA as the city with the leaky sewers that just one year ago was forced to dump 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal. Much of it flowed onto Waikiki Beach.
The city is still chasing a 1995 federal consent decree to fix Honolulu's sewers and spends more than half of its construction budget on sewer repair.
After a while everyone learns you can't fight the federal government. They have block-long buildings in Washington just filled with bright lawyers who want only to carve their initials in your city checkbook.
While Honolulu's primitive sewer system has the eye of the EPA, Hannemann and Gov. Linda Lingle found the issue yet another chance to disagree.
The city already has a problem with the state Health Department because of the Waimanalo dump, and Lingle has not been in any mood to pat Hannemann on the back and say "everything will be OK."
Instead, Lingle says it is time for Hannemann "to show some responsibility."
In the end, what Hannemann and Honolulu have to show is a lot more dollars before the feds let the city flush this problem away.