Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant (City & County of Honolulu photo)

BY JIM DOOLEY – The City will begin trucking one 5,000-gallon load of sewage per day from central Honolulu to an Ewa treatment plant with plans to increase the traffic to as much as six truckloads per day for the foreseeable future, Mayor Peter Carlisle said today.

Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant (City & County of Honolulu photo)

The waste, which cannot be processed by the over-capacity Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, will be shipped to the Honouliuli WTP while an environmental assessment of the program is conducted.

The one-truck-per-day program will begin next month and continue for 28 days while the environmental assessment is conducted.

After protests from the windward community where the Kailua plant is located, plans to truck excess sewage from Sand Island to other treatment plants in Waianae and Kailua have been temporarily put on hold, said the mayor. The Kailua plant is located right next to a school and across the street from residential community. Rep. Cynthia Thielen, (R-Kailua) led the effort to have the city perform the EIS before delivering daily waste there.

The program is necessary because funds for a planned $26 million upgrade to the Sand Island plant were deleted from the City budget by the City Council, said Carlisle.

“Our job is to correct this situation,” Carlisle said.

“Something needs to be done immediately,” he said.

Carlisle said upgrades to the Sand Island plant can’t begin until funds are budgeted next year and the improvements wouldn’t  be completed for another two years after that.

The only alternative to trucking sewage is to place a moratorium on new hook-ups to Oahu’s sewer system, with a corresponding halt to construction projects and housing developments, the mayor said.

“A moratorium should be the absolute very last resort, although it has to remain on the table.” Carlisle said.

Carlisle and Tim Steinberger, head of the Department of Environmental Services, noted that sewage has been regularly trucked for years from Waimanalo and Kahuku to the Kailua WTP and from Wahiawa to the Honouliuli plant.

Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant (CIty & County photo)

Maintenance and expansion projects are now underway at the Kailua and Waianae facilities while upgrades have been completed at Honouliuli, said Steinberger.

That plant is now processing 28 million gallons per day of sewage and is designed to handle as much as 52 million, he said.

“It’s not close to capacity,” said Steinberger.

But City Council Member Tom Berg does not like the idea of more sewage being delivered to the plant in his community.  He maintains that the city get its priorities straight and spend taxpayer money where it is most needed.

“This is the aftermath of voters electing leaders that play kick the can with our necessities.  Our own waste is backing up to City Hall and never forget it- this was done by design to go gung-ho over funding rail instead of fixing our basic infrastructure.  It is time to ask the voter, ‘Do you want to continue to fund the rail project or take that money and fix the dilemma that transpires after you flush?’

“The Mayor is facing a turning point in his term, either he can direct resources to resolve flooding, drainage, water, sewer, and road repairs and embark upon upgrades to various treatment plants and recycling efforts, or continue to divert taxpayers’ money to fund a heavy-rail system riddled with graft on all fronts.

“Everyone that is upset with sludge being shipped to their backyard and being in receipt of the island’s woes, needs to reevaluate the pursuit of rail that is killing our quality of life even before the rail has even begun. It’s that simple- fund sewers or rail, and the voters want rail and this is the result. Now we have to live with it- a misdirection of priorities sold to us by a previous administration, or raise taxes to flush in confidence.”

A public hearing on the new trucking plan will be held at 7 p.m. August 1 at the Mission Memorial Auditorium on the grounds of City Hall.

 

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com