Another day, another ruling on sewage
A federal judge has ruled that the city violated wastewater regulations by failing to meet deadlines for two facilities.
Another federal court finding of wastewater discharge violations leaves the city at risk for hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, an outcome that neither the administration, taxpayers nor the plaintiffs who brought suit want.
Indeed, fines could hamper rather than resolve issues the suit seeks to correct as the city struggles to improve sewer lines and treatment facilities that have suffered from decades of neglect and only in recent years have been made a priority.
The environmental groups who filed the 2004 legal action will likely ask the court to impose measures to assure the city continues to work toward Clean Water Act compliance at the Sand Island and Hart Street plants, both of which saw years of construction delays.
At Sand Island, the city hopes to meet federal standards with a disinfecting facility, which was to be completed more than four years ago, now undergoing tests, but the need for repairs and upgrades to critical sewer mains stretches from Kaneohe-Kailua to Ala Moana, Waikiki to Leeward Oahu. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering requiring a higher level of treatment at the Honouliuli plant that could run up costs into the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more.
At the same time, the city is spending millions to defend legal complaints that the administration contends are already being addressed by a 1995 EPA enforcement action. But plaintiffs say spills and breaks remain unacceptably high, none more vivid than the massive rupture in Waikiki last year.
This cycle of violations, lawsuits, rulings and fines has become too common, and since none of the participants relishes the repetitious course, it behooves them to seek consensus and drop the adversarial routine.
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