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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 24, 2006

Pollution data point out permit violators

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

Polluters in Hawai'i exceeded their Clean Water Act permits more than 160 times from July 1, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2004, according to data obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

More than 45 percent of industrial and municipal facilities in the state discharged more pollution into waterways than allowed under their permits, according to the report released yesterday.

The City and County of Honolulu also was identified as a repeat offender, according to the report. During the 18-month period, the city reported that it exceeded its permit more than 50 times.

"Obviously, sewage plants are a major cause of pollution," said Sabrina Clark, a local field organizer with the research group. "We have Kualoa Beach closed because of sewage, we have Kailua Beach closed because of sewage, and the Ala Wai hasn't been safe for fishing and swimming for a long time," she said.

City spokesman Bill Brennan said he was not familiar with the reported violations because they occurred during the previous administration.

"One of the goals after taking office has been to work to minimize, to the extent possible, any sort of sewage runoff into the ocean," Brennan said.

The research group obtained the EPA data through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted more than six months ago, Clark said.

Clark said her group is trying to bring attention to the cuts in the EPA's budget as well as the weakening of programs that help to keep water clean. The group also sent 2,000 reply cards yesterday to U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, urging him to support the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act, which would strengthen clean-water laws. The act is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai'i.

"We really want to bring attention to this and the Clean Water Act. It's a really good piece of legislation, and it has improved our waterways, but we aren't living up to the goal of the act to keep all waterways safe for fishing and swimming," Clark said.

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.