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EPA proposes to not renew City and County of Honolulu wastewater permit variance

Release Date: 03/28/2007
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711,

(03/28/07) HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed to not renew the City and County of Honolulu’s permit variance to exempt the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment plant from full secondary treatment requirements.

“We share Hawaii’s commitment to protect its ocean and waters as a way of life for the citizens of Hawaii and its visitors,” said Wayne Nastri, the EPA’s Administrator for the Pacific Southwest region. “Our action today reflects that the Honouilili plant does not meet the Clean Water Act requirements. EPA will continue to work closely with the City to address its wastewater operations and ensure that Hawaii’s residents and marine life are protected.”

The city’s Honouliuli plant, located in Ewa, is currently operating under a variance from full secondary treatment. If the EPA’s proposal becomes final, the plant will be required to upgrade to full secondary treatment.

Primary treatment generally involves screening out large floating objects such as rags and sticks, removing grit, such as cinders, sand and small stones, and allowing wastewater to settle, followed by the removal of collected solids. When secondary treatment is used, primary-treated wastewater flows into another facility where a large portion of the organic matter in the wastewater is removed by making use of the bacteria in the sewage. There are a variety of different biological treatment techniques that allow the bacteria to consume most of the waste’s organic matter.

The Honouliuli plant’s discharged water results in exceedances of national criteria for allowable levels of bacteria which are designed to protect recreational use of state waters, and does not meet water quality standards set to protect marine life or human consumption of fish.

EPA’s tentative decision will be available for public comment through May 29, 2007. A public hearing on the tentative decision will be held on May 15, 2007 at the Kapolei Middle School. At the completion of this public comment period, EPA will consider all public comments and make a final decision on the variance application.

The federal Clean Water Act generally requires municipal wastewater treatment plants to use both primary and secondary treatment. Amendments to the act in 1977 allow for variances from secondary treatment for marine discharges, provided the plant can meet water quality standards and other specific criteria as part of section 301(h) of the act. These variances are sometimes referred to as 301(h) waivers. Many coastal cities which once sought variances from secondary treatment, especially in areas where there is heavy recreational beach use, have chosen to upgrade their treatment plants to meet Clean Water Act requirements without variances.

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