FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Environmental Protection Agency held a hearing at Kapolei Middle School yesterday on its plans to revoke its waiver of secondary sewage treatment at the Honouliuli Sewage Plant. Ken Kawahara of the city Department of Environmental Services addressed a large crowd supporting continuation of the waiver. CLICK FOR LARGE
Plant upgrade a waste, EPA told
Upgrading the Honouliuli sewage treatment plant at a cost of $400 million would be a waste of money that could be better spent fixing aging sewage pipes.
That was the message from dozens of people, including scientists who specialize in waste- water treatment and marine life, to representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last night.
The EPA hearing before about 200 people at Kapolei Middle School was to get feedback on the agency's tentative decision to require the city to upgrade the level of treatment at the Honouliuli plant. The EPA wants the city to upgrade the plant to give secondary treatment to sewage in line with the federal Clean Water Act. City officials say this will cost $400 million and is unnecessary. They want a continuation of the 301H waiver that allows them to conduct only primary treatment of sewage.
The agency will receive comment on its tentative decision until August, after which officials will make a final decision.
The plant treats sewage for about 340,000 residents of Waipahu, Pearl City, Halawa and Ewa Beach.
"Asking for this variance does not mean we do not care about our environment," said Maeda Timson, chairwoman of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board. But there is "no evidence that marine life, drinking water, or swimmers are in danger," she said. "In 36 years I have lived in Makakilo and 10 years I have been Neighborhood Board chair, not once did we ever hear any complaints of any such thing about anything in our waters that was not safe or of anyone that was sick."
Among those testifying in favor of the plant continuing to discharge primary treated sewage were engineers Woodie Muirhead, Robin Matsunaga, Roy Abe and Robert Rocheleau.
Richard Brock, a marine researcher at the University of Hawaii, said that in studying coral reefs near the Honouliuli outfall since 1991, he has seen no negative impact.
"Even your 102-page summary document denying the 301H waiver says there is no impact," Brock said. "I think EPA is not interested in what science is or what citizens really think."
The city reapplied for its waiver for 1995, but the EPA did not respond until now. "How cavalier," Brock said. "How would you each like to pay $300 a month for a sewage bill?"
Also on the record asking EPA to continue the waiver were representatives of Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, and Councilmen Todd Apo and Nestor Garcia.
State officials with the Department of Health, which partners with the EPA to enforce water-quality laws, were in the crowd but did not speak.
However, Watson Okubo, who heads the state DOH water-quality division, asked that EPA postpone any decision until after current revisions of water-quality standards are completed. "It's common knowledge among scientists in Hawaii that Hawaii water-quality standards are in need of revision," he said.