New water standards sought


POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mayor Mufi Hannemann urged state lawmakers yesterday to change the state's water quality standards - a critical component that he believes could help the city as it faces multimillion-dollar sewage lawsuits and up to $1 billion in upgrades.

In front of the House and Senate committees on Health, Environment and Energy, Hannemann argued that the state's standards are outdated and could affect the outcome of a pending lawsuit by the Sierra Club as well as a recent mandate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to upgrade two waste-water treatment plants.

“;They are important because the Sierra Club and EPA rely heavily on the state water quality standards to measure what is necessary to protect the environment,”; Hannemann said. “;Those standards are incorrect and outdated.”;

Laurence Lau, the state's deputy director for environmental health, acknowledged that the standards need to be updated. Because of staffing problems in his office, the last time there were any changes in the standards was in 2004. Lau did not have a time line on the expected changes.

Lau said the state has declined to take a position on the EPA's recent decision to require the city to upgrade the Sand Island and Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment plants to include another level of filtering, called “;secondary treatment,”; that uses bacteria to clean waste water.

There was one typo in the standards relating to chlordane levels allowed in fish for consumption. Under the correct standards, Lau said, there would be fewer violations, but the city would still have violated the law.

Sen. David Ige (D, Aiea-Pearl City), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, plans to hold more hearings on legislation to change the state's standards.

“;The secondary treatment really doesn't seem to add value in our communities,”; Ige said. “;I don't think it addresses the main health concerns we have in our communities.”;