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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

City plans for Sand Island plant called deficient

By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

City plans for fixing problems at the Sand Island sewage treatment plant are riddled with holes and must be revised within a month, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health.

The EPA cited the plant six months ago for multiple violations of its federal permit to discharge treated sewage into the ocean, and demanded that the city produce detailed plans to address the problems.

But the plans fail to show how the city will speed up construction projects that are required by the permit, and do not adequately outline how delays will impact various parts of the work, the EPA and state say.

"There's a lot more work involved, and they need to provide more specific details," said Denis Lau, chief of the Health Department's Clean Water Branch.

The city is under heavy pressure to ensure that treated sewage from the plant does not threaten humans or wildlife, and is in the midst of a massive $300 million upgrade to the facility.

But some key components of the project, including a sewage disinfection unit, have run into snags and fallen behind schedule.

The city needs to show how such delays will impact other parts of the project, and whether it can guarantee completion dates, according to an eight-page response to the plans.

"I hope to see something reasonable that both the state and EPA can accept," Lau said.

City officials have insisted that the plant poses no immediate health threat, and that inspectors have blown some of the problems out of proportion.

The objections to the plans come at a bad time for the city, however, because officials must soon apply for a new discharge permit. That will be harder to secure if the city can't convince the EPA and state that it has a solid handle on the upgrade project, Lau said.

The city could face fines of up to $27,500 per day if it does not produce acceptable plans within a month.

Reach Johnny Brannon at jbrannon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.