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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Progress Report 2011:
Clean Water

Honolulu to Upgrade Sewage Treatment

In Honolulu, sewage spills resulting from failure of old, deteriorating infrastructure have at times fouled canals and closed beaches. Quick fixes are insufficient to prevent these spills, which threaten the health of residents and visitors.

In August 2010, EPA, the State of Hawaii, three environmental groups and the City and County of Honolulu reached a legal settlement requiring Honolulu to upgrade wastewater collection and treatment systems to prevent sewage spills and to discharge cleaner water from the city’s two major sewage treatment plants.

The settlement includes a schedule for upgrading the city’s wastewater collection system by June 2020, and upgrading the Honouliuli treatment plant to secondary treatment by 2024, and the Sand Island plant by 2035.

Initial work includes rehabilitation and replacement of aging sewer pipes, repairs to pump stations, backup strategies to minimize risks of force main spills, ongoing cleaning and maintenance to prevent blockages, and improved efforts to keep fats, oils and grease from entering sewers from restaurants.

The agreement will significantly reduce both the public health risk from pathogens in raw sewage and the amount of harmful pollutants in near-shore waters, benefiting Oahu residents as well as visitors to its beaches. The multi-year schedule lets the city spread the costs over time.

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Honolulu also paid a fine of $1.6 million to resolve violations of state and federal water pollution laws, such as the March 2006 force main break that spilled about 50 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal, which resulted in the closure of nearby Waikiki Beach.

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