FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
City officials gave a presentation last night about how Oahu's sewer collection and treatment system works, with about 70 people attending at the Ewa Beach Public Library. Among those aiding in the presentation was John Spencer of CH2M Hill. CLICK FOR LARGE
City urges residents to lobby EPA
Officials say the city cannot afford sewage plant upgrades that the agency demands
City officials asked more than 70 people last night to lobby the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to back off its call for a higher-level treatment of sewage at the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant.
City officials led by Department of Environmental Services Director Eric Takamura gave a "Wastewater 101" presentation at the Ewa Beach Public Library about how Oahu's sewer collection and treatment system works.
"We're really trying to get our story out," Takamura said.
The city's key point is that with more than a quarter of its 1,400 miles of sewers 50 or more years old, the city cannot afford to upgrade its pipes and its treatment plants.
The issue is coming to a head since the EPA issued a tentative decision in March that it would stop allowing the city's Honouliuli plant, which treats sewage from Halawa to Ko Olina, to treat only at a primary treatment level.
Primary treatment removes about 30 percent of organic material in sewage, while secondary treatment removes 85 percent, Takamura said.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann has said upgrading the Honouliuli plant to secondary treatment would cost $400 million and that upgrading the city's largest plant at Sand Island would cost another $800 million.
The city and its consultants allege that upgrading the treatment plants would not necessarily improve water quality in the ocean, but would cost a lot of money.
The city's presentation included a video explaining how a primary sewage treatment plant works, along with take-home, 24-page booklets titled "Getting to Know Our Wastewater Management System."
"We gotta get people to go pack that building on May 15 and tell EPA we can't afford that (upgrading treatment)," Foster Village resident Art Frank said. "We gotta concentrate on fixing the pipes."
But others at the meeting felt differently.
"I think we're denying all our children and the people that are going to come after us of having a clean, safe recreational ocean environment, and we haven't had that," said Glenn Oamilda, of Ewa Beach. "I think the EPA was right on board. This is what we want in Ewa Beach, secondary treatment."