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EPA takes action to address pollution violations at Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant
By News Release @ 1:44 AM :: 1695 Views :: Honolulu County, Environment

EPA takes action to address pollution violations at Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant

News Release from US EPA, December 15, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has entered into an order on consent with the City and County of Honolulu to ensure pollutant discharge requirements are met at the Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. This order on consent will ensure that discharges from this facility to the Pacific Ocean are safe for the marine environment, and that the facility is in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

In January 2021, the facility experienced a failure at one of two biotower treatment units, causing the plant’s discharge to exceed limits for bacteria. The City and County of Honolulu posted beach warning signs at the direction of the Department of Health, although beach monitoring conducted during this time period indicated that contamination did not reach nearby beaches. Additionally, the facility’s discharge exceeded bacteria limits in June 2020, April 2021, and December 2021. 

“This order ensures that the Kailua Treatment Plant takes steps to prevent any further bacteria exceedances in what the plant discharges into the ocean,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Compliance with the Clean Water Act permit is essential to protecting the public health of Hawaiians and Hawaii’s coastal waters. With our partners at Hawaii Department of Health, we at EPA will continue to provide vigilant oversight over Hawaii’s wastewater plants.”

The City and County of Honolulu operates the Kailua treatment plant, which treats up to 15 million gallons per day of wastewater collected from the Ahuimanu, Kaneohe, and Kailua communities. The facility is designed to release treated wastewater to the Pacific Ocean 3500 feet offshore of the Mokapu Peninsula.  The treatment plant is authorized to discharge wastewater via a Clean Water Act permit issued by the Hawaii Department of Health.

To prevent further exceedances, EPA is requiring the facility to:

Increase monitoring for bacteria to ensure water quality is protected and the facility complies with its Clean Water Act permit.
Perform a condition assessment and maintenance evaluation of wastewater treatment units to prevent additional failures.
Develop and implement an operations manual to optimize bacteria removal treatment.

Separately, EPA has a consent decree with the City and County of Honolulu for wastewater improvements. The consent decree was issued in 2010, and requires upgrades to the wastewater collection sewer system, reduction of spills from the sanitary sewers, and upgrades to the Sand Island and Honouliuli wastewater treatment plants. Upgrades are required to be completed by 2035.

  *   *   *   *   *

City responds to EPA order on Kailua Regional WWTP

News Release from City and County of Honolulu, December 16, 2022

HONOLULU – On December 14, 2022, the City and County of Honolulu entered an Administrative Order on Consent with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address enterococcus exceedances in treated effluent samples at the Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant (KRWWTP) that occurred between February 18 through February 28, 2021; and December 7 through 10, 2021. The city operates the KRWWTP in accordance with a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Enterococcus is an indicator bacteria that is measured in the treated effluent at the KRWWTP and is also monitored at several beach locations in the area.

From February 18 through February 28, 2021, treated effluent enterococcus levels exceeded the single sample maximum limitation in the city’s NPDES permit for KRWWTP due to a malfunction of one of the rotator arms in one of the plant’s two biotowers, which are part of the secondary treatment process.  The biotower arm was repaired and returned to service and has since continued to function as designed. The effluent sample exceedances that occurred between December 7 through 10, 2021, were caused by a large storm event and were unrelated to the treatment plant itself.  The city’s monitoring demonstrated that effluent enterococcus had returned to well below the maximum limit by December 11, 2021. Beach monitoring sample data from before, during, and after both the February 2021 and December 2021 periods found no enterococcus contamination or risk to public health.

Pursuant to the AOC, an engineering condition assessment of both the mechanical and structural components of both biotowers was completed; an engineering evaluation of the plant’s enterococcus treatment performance was completed; and the frequency of monitoring for enterococcus has increased to greater than that required in the NPDES permit. As a result of the various assessments, analyses, and evaluations, the city is currently in the process of implementing an ultraviolet light (UV) disinfection system at KRWWTP.

Separately, the city continues to comply with the 2010 Consent Decree (CD).  The city has completed all required assessments, evaluations, maintenance activities, and upgrades to the collection system as required in the CD. The city continues its work on the secondary treatment process upgrades at the Honouliuli and Sand Island wastewater treatment plants that are specified in the CD.  Upgrades to the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant are to be completed by June 1, 2024; and upgrades to the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant are to be completed by December 31, 2035. The city is on schedule to complete these upgrades.

The city continues to operate, maintain, and actively monitor the 2,100 miles of pipes and 71 pump stations that comprise the wastewater collection system and each of the nine wastewater treatment plants to ensure the protection of public health and the environment.

─ PAU ─

HNN: EPA takes action on 2021 Kailua sewage plant discharge to prevent future spills


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