Tam questions
proposed plant

A UH researcher urges more tests
for pellets converted from sludge

Two City Councilmembers accused Mayor Jeremy Harris' administration of fast-tracking a building permit for a Sand Island plant that will convert sewage sludge to fertilizer pellets.

"I'm strongly going to state to the administration, 'Please do not process the permit,'" Public Works Chairman Rod Tam said.

City & County of Honolulu

Tam held an informational meeting yesterday to hear from University of Hawaii researcher Roger Fujioka, who conducted tests on pellets produced by Synagro, the Houston-based company that will construct and operate the $34 million egg-shaped sludge conversion facility at the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The new facility would allow the city to recycle 25,000 tons of sludge a year instead of trucking it to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill.

The tests, which were aimed at determining whether the pellets and their application to Oahu soil pose a public health risk, were supposed to be done before the city issues a building permit.

"The results obtained suggest that Synagro pellet can be safely applied to soil but due to the limited nature of the test ... many long-term questions could not be answered and would require further testing," Fujioka said.

But city Environmental Services Director Frank Doyle told the committee that the test findings "confirmed what we've always said and that was the pellets are safe." Doyle said that based on the results he told the Department of Planning and Permitting to process the building permit application when it is submitted.

Alvin Thomas, Synagro vice president, said the test results "came out as positive as it could be" and that tests done in years past have also confirmed the product safety.

However, Tam and Councilman Romy Cachola said community groups in the vicinity of the planned plant want to see further testing done before a building permit is issued.

Cachola said permits for demolition and foundation work have been taken out in preparation for construction and he hopes that doesn't mean the city is accelerating the project.

Doyle denied that the administration is giving Synagro any special treatment and the permit would be processed in the normal course. "We're not ramrodding the process."

After yesterday's meeting, Doyle said that he will need time to assess the information that came out at the meeting before deciding how to proceed.


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