Sludge plant plan
raises doubts

Matson and the ILWU are among
the groups urging closer study
of the Sand Island project

Several community organizations are expected to ask the City Council on Wednesday to withhold a permit for a sludge conversion plant slated for Sand Island until more study is done on the system's possible effects.

"It's for the health, safety and welfare of the people," said Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Bernadette Young. "It's not an 'It's in my back yard' thing. The thing is, it has to be proven safe first."

The Council will be voting on whether to approve a special management permit for Houston-based company Synagro Technologies, which plans to build a $34 million In-Vessel Bioconversion Facility at the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The proposed Sand Island system would convert 25,000 tons of sludge annually into 6,000 tons of dried fertilizer pellets, which would be sold commercially.

Currently, the sludge is trucked to the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.

Under the plan, a 116-foot-tall sludge storage tank, an egg-shaped container at the same height and a solids-handling building and incinerator would be stationed on a 1.1-acre site within the sewage treatment plant.

The Council's Zoning Committee gave preliminary approval for the permit in late July. Two months later the Council deferred a vote on final approval of the permit, pending more community discussion.

A number of residents and business owners in the downtown area have asked the company to conduct a full environmental impact statement study before putting up the plant.

Young said the study is needed because of health concerns, and cited complaints surrounding a Synagro system in New York, where residents allege their plant emits odors and has made people sick.

The Kalihi-Palama and Salt Lake neighborhood boards, the Kalihi-Palama Community Council, Matson Navigation, EarthJustice, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142 and the Sand Island Business Association are expected to oppose approval of the permit at Wednesday's Council meeting, according to association Executive Director Rodney Kim.

Officials with the company, contracted by the city to build and maintain the plant, have said that because an environmental assessment completed earlier this year found no public safety concerns, an impact statement is not required under Hawaii law.

"We've completed everything that's required or useful," Don Clegg, the project's planning consultant, said yesterday in a telephone interview. "There's nothing to be gained by doing anything different. There's no need to do anything further and delay the project any longer."

If the City Council gives final approval for the permit in its meeting Wednesday, the sludge system could be finished in a year to 14 months, Clegg said.

An impact statement would throw off that time line by nine months.


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