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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 20, 2006

EPA won't let city delay spill report

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has denied a request from Honolulu officials for more time to prepare a report on the rupture of a major sewer line through Waikiki that fouled nearby waters and closed beaches because of high bacteria levels.

"We believe the information is factual in nature and should be readily available to the city and county representatives," said Kathi Moore, chief of the EPA's Clean Water Act Compliance office in San Francisco. "If the information is not provided to us by April 24, they will be subject to penalties."

City Department of Environmental Services Director Eric Takamura yesterday said he asked for more time because the city has been trying to put together the report as well as continue work on negotiations relating to a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to improve the city's sewer system overall.

As to whether the city can meet the deadline, Takamura said, "We're trying to get it ready by Monday."

The March 24 break in the 42-inch pressurized main prompted city crews to pump 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal over six days rather than risk having the sewage back up into homes and businesses.

In a letter dated March 28, Moore sent a letter "requiring that the City and County of Ho-nolulu provide a complete report on the spill and all actions taken to repair the force main within 21 days of receipt of this letter."

On April 13, Takamura requested an extension for submitting that information. He said that request was denied Tuesday .

In response to a written request, Moore told The Advertiser that the EPA agreed to "a generous recalculation of 21 days from receipt of the request" after Takamura asked for more time, but that it would not extend the time beyond next week.

The Clean Water Act allows the federal agency to assess civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day per violation for failure to comply with such an information request.

The city's report to the EPA must include:

  • A detailed description of the rupture, including the likely cause, actions taken in response and photographs.

  • A description of steps taken to minimize discharge of raw sewage.

  • Water-quality monitoring results.

  • A detailed description of the repair work.

    Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.