Tuesday, August 14, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

Oahu water
may expand

The Board of Water Supply
may take over city sewage plants

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply may take over some of the island's sewage plants from the city Department of Environmental Services and convert them into reclamation facilities.

"We think that we need to expand our recycling efforts," said Donna Kiyosaki, the board's deputy water manager.

Such reclamation plants would be able to treat effluent to levels that make it usable for industrial and agricultural use, thus reducing the need to use tap water for those purposes.

City Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger did not return a call to his office.

"As far as recycling, it's the right thing to do because it saves ground water, potable water, for its highest purpose, which is for people to use," Kiyosaki said.

"We don't have any decisions made yet," she said. "We're looking downstream at what other areas of the island would make sense for us to go in with a recycling water plant."

Erwin Kawata, who heads the agency's business development unit, said the idea of the board taking over waste-water plants is in "an internal brainstorming stage." No decision has been made on how to study the issue.

Kawata said water reclamation is happening on the mainland.

"The question is conceptually, What is possible?" Kawata said.

The Board of Water Supply made its first foray into recycled water last year when it purchased the Honouliuli Wastewater Reclamation Facility from USFilter Operating Services for $48.1 million.

The facility sits on the site of the city's Honouliuli Sewage Treatment Plant, recycling about 12 million gallons daily that is then sold to industrial and irrigation interests.

Nearly all of the recycled water is sold, Kiyosaki said.

"We have customers lined up for the water," he said.

Kiyosaki said the board is contemplating an expansion of its Honouliuli site and setting up reclamation sites elsewhere.

The 12 million gallons at Honouliuli now being recycled actually represents only a portion of the estimated 38 million gallons that are processed each day there. Expansion of reclamation operations there appears to be a natural, she said.

Waste-water plants at Wahiawa and Waianae also have been mentioned as potential reclamation sites.

Wahiawa is already required by federal mandate to treat its effluent to a level suitable for irrigation. The question is whether there is a market for recycled water, Kiyosaki said.

The Waianae plant might be a good candidate because the Leeward Coast's arid conditions make water development in the area difficult.

"They could use the water," she said.

Kiyosaki stressed that while the existing Honouliuli reclamation facility is operated by USFilter, a private vendor, there is no plan to privatize any future water recycling plants.

Kiyosaki said it would also be premature for the public to think that the board's research into more reclamation facilities means it wants to merge its operations with that of the city Wastewater Division.

City Councilman Steve Holmes said it makes sense to him for the board to explore more reclamation possibilities, particularly when the city is required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to spend millions treating sewage.

When effluent, even if treated, is dumped into the ocean, "we're throwing a resource away," Holmes said.

"Waianae, Wahiawa, all those areas need water, and with our island total water resources being depleted, it's absolutely essential that we get going now with water reuse," he said.

He noted that Oahu residents are experiencing yet another drought this summer and are being asked to conserve water.

"It should be on everybody's minds where our future water resources are going to come from," Holmes said.

City & County of Honolulu

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