City should try to find reasonable plan for sewage plant fixes


POSTED: Friday, January 09, 2009

The federal government appears unlikely to back away from its insistence that the city bring two major sewage treatment plants up to standards.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who says he will appeal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision, would do better to work out a reasonable plan and improvement schedule with the EPA rather than prolong the battle.

The mayor remains convinced that pumping minimally filtered wastewater about 1.7 miles out to sea does not hurt the ocean and that upgrading the plants “;is not necessary or beneficial.”;

However, the crucial point is that discharges from the Honouliuli and Sand Island plants violate the Clean Water Act.

The city had argued that the EPA gave the plants variances in 1990 and 1998, and that since then, operations had improved water quality. But with increased monitoring data and elevated criteria, the EPA said variances could not be issued again.

Hannemann asserted that upgrading the plants at the same time the city repairs deteriorating sewage lines would be an economic hardship with sewer rates set to increase in steps of 15 to 18 percent through the next two years.

The EPA seems willing to factor in financial issues. While pointing out that municipal expenses aren't a factor in considering variances, the agency said cost and financial capability “;could be a relevant tool”; in determining a schedule for the city to make improvements.

The mayor, who at the start of his first term identified long neglect of the city's sewer system, should now recognize further postponement will cost more in the long run and continue his effort for overhauls.