POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 3, 2011
Many jobs are on the line as the City Council votes today on approving funds to construct a second digester that breaks down wastewater at the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. A letter Mayor Peter Carlisle sent to Council members Wednesday said a vote against funding the project will result in a number of scenarios, all of them negative.
The biggest one that affects the construction industry involves sewage discharge permits. The mayor's office has warned that the city may be forced to immediately stop issuing sewage discharge permits if funds for a second digester aren't restored. That would halt new construction projects from Hawaii Kai to Halawa. And we're not talking short-term; the mayor says a moratorium could last three to five years.
The other alternatives are also negative. They include trucking excess raw sludge to Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Waianae Wastewater Treatment Plant, or disposing the sludge after mixing it with lime at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.
That's not the news we need as we struggle to recover from the recession. But there's more bad news beyond new construction job losses and hauling sewer sludge to various island landfills.
A "no" vote by the Council spells trouble for the city with the Environmental Protection Agency. The Sand Island plant has limited sludge digestion capacity. Under a consent decree that settled a lawsuit filed by several environmental organizations, the city must comply with pollutant discharge limits or face significant fines.
Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. joins with others in urging the City Council to restore the administration's funding and, for the sake of the economy and the environment, build the second digester. Without it, the city risks failures, fines and an extended moratorium on new construction projects across Oahu.
William Wilson is president of Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. He wrote this commentary for the Star-Advertiser.