Supporter was open
The headline on the Jan. 25 story "Sludge plant firm paid supporter" was unfortunate because it implies impropriety surrounding Marta Rivera's appearance before the City Council on Dec. 3. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is the story of a good person -- Rivera -- who has been wronged.
We have always been up front about funding Rivera's trip from the Bronx to testify at the Dec. 3 City Council hearing, and Rivera acknowledged at the hearing that we paid her way. According to a transcript, in response to a question from Councilman Rod Tam, she said, "The transportation was paid for by Synagro."
We invited Rivera here because community groups and Council members were asking questions about the biosolids recycling facility in the Bronx. Who better than an active and respected member of that community who lives five blocks from the facility?
However, we now deeply regret inviting Rivera to Honolulu. While she testified as a private citizen -- or, as the transcript states, "I'm representing myself as an elder and 49-year resident, as an employee and as a community resident" -- her political opponents created a controversy with the Bronx Community Board No. 2, where Marta served as chairwoman. This caused her and her family much pain, and ultimately she resigned from her chairmanship. However, she does remain a member of the local community board.
We regret that this exceptional community leader was so unfairly maligned because she traveled thousands of miles to share her experience with the City Council and the public. We are saddened that she was made to pay such a high price for expressing her opinion.
This unfortunate outcome does not change the fact that the proposed new facility will bring important benefits to Honolulu.
>> It will help protect our environment by recycling 51 million pounds of a waste product -- sewage sludge -- into 12 million pounds of exceptional quality organic fertilizer every year. In essence, the facility will reclaim a valuable resource and put it to good use.
>> It will help to extend the life of the Waimanalo Gulch landfill. Sludge is now disposed of by trucking it to the landfill and dumping it. When the sludge is recycled, all that dumping will stop. This also will reduce the truck traffic on Sand Island.
>> The biosolids recycling facility will help keep the city in compliance with its consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA mandates that the city make "beneficial use" of its sewage sludge.
We hope that the City Council sees the wisdom of these benefits and votes to pass the project.
Jim Hecht is project developer for Synagro Technologies.