by Andrew Walden
In letter sent July 11 to the Honolulu County Council, Rep Cynthia Thielen (R-Kailua) is asking the Council reconsider its recent decision against spending $26M to add second sewage sludge “digester” to the City’s Sand Island sewage treatment facility.
In a separate message to Tim Steinberger, Director of Honolulu Department of Environmental Services (DES), Thielen warns:
The purpose of my letter is to state that the Department of Environmental Services must prepare an Environmental Assessment, pursuant to Chapter 343, Hawaii Revised Statutes before it can commence this new project. Under the decision issued by the Hawaii Supreme Court in the Sierra Club v DoT, 202 P.3d 1226 (Haw. 2009), when there may be secondary impacts, the government agency must first prepare an Environmental Assessment. Secondary impacts in this case include, but are not limited to, the odor and noise impacts upon students and residents in a residential community, the impacts upon traffic on residential roads, and the impact upon the ability of an already overstressed Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant to process additional raw sewage sludge.
Please know that I will pursue all available means to ensure that the Department of Environmental Services does not commence trucking raw sewage to the Kailua plant until it fulfills its comprehensive legal requirements under Chapter 343, HRS.
In her letter to Council Chair Ernie Martin, Thielen asks that the $26M be restored to the County budget and points out:
Speaking specifically about the Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant (KWTP), through the years the Department of Health (DOH) has imposed numerous fines on the city for noncompliance with health and other environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act. At long last, the city is undergoing improvements to KWTP to eliminate the noxious odors and noise. One of the improvement projects is scheduled to begin shortly. If the city is forced to truck excess raw sewage from Sand Island to the Kailua plant, then those scheduled odor and noise improvements will need to be postponed for over a year or more.
In addition, the Department of Environmental Services is undergoing essential maintenance of the KWTP digester. This maintenance along with the necessary parts, replacements, or repairs must be completed promptly. Simply stated, KWTP is not in condition to receive truckloads of imported raw sewage.
You may not be aware that Aikahi Elementary School is located directly adjacent to the Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant. The excessive odors (the subject of numerous DoH fines against the city) have sickened students. At times, youngsters have been sent home due to becoming ill from the fumes.
Images: Letters to Martin, Steinberger