Sewage demands ignore scientific, financial data
I'm writing to address the most egregious of the many unsubstantiated statements in last Saturday's "Gathering Place" column by Fred Madlener.
Our treatment plants have produced no "lei of kukai" around our island as Madlener claims. We invite him to show the public, with data, with pictures, with whatever evidence he can, that this lei exists and if it does, what caused it.
He didn't do it when he testified at Wednesday's Environmental Protection Agency public hearing at Kapolei. Like the three other speakers (out of 59) who testified in favor of requiring secondary treatment at the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant, Madlener offered generalities and theories, but no scientific or other evidence. Why ignore the experts and facts? He happens to be a spokesman for Hawaii's Thousand Friends, one of the groups that continue to bring costly litigation against the city.
On the other hand, more than 50 people, including many of Hawaii's leading engineers and ocean scientists, testified against requiring secondary treatment at Honouliuli and more were in the audience to show their support for the city.
One of them was Richard Grigg, a distinguished University of Hawaii professor who has conducted exhaustive studies of the city's outfalls to determine if they are affecting the ocean environment. Grigg, professor emeritus of oceanography and a former professional surfer who still surfs these waters, found that the Ewa outfall is ecologically safe.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann would not hesitate to provide secondary wastewater treatment if public health were threatened. After reviewing the EPA's tentative decision, we cannot conclude that it is scientifically sound or that the cost of secondary treatment at Honouliuli justifies the theoretical benefit, and we will continue to discuss this with EPA.
Contrary to what Madlener would have you believe, we cannot do everything at once, nor can we afford it. The mayor's focus has been on improving our wastewater collection system. The 1995 EPA consent decree calls for the city to spend $900 million on our collection system. After eight years of work $600 million was expended, but due to inflation we still have $1.2 billion of anticipated work to do under the 1995 consent decree alone.
In addition, the city has agreed to another $300 million of force main work that was not covered in the 1995 decree, to prevent another Beachwalk spill from occurring.
Madlener would have the city go to secondary treatment at the same time, which will drive sewer fees up to $300 a month. That might not be a problem for Madlener, but it's a different story for thousands of working families.
An overzealous expenditure to solve a questionable environmental "problem" is not fiscally prudent when the benefit of secondary treatment to the marine environment is speculative at best. The city is more than willing to discuss with EPA in a manner which Sen. Dan Inouye recommends "focus on a broader settlement that is more about problem solving and less punitive in nature."
We hope that Madlener will stop suing the city, and instead try to help us solve these problems.
Eric S. Takamura is the director of the city Department of Environmental Services.