POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 10, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 07:14 a.m. HST, Jul 10, 2011
Windward lawmakers say they are dismayed by the city's plans to truck raw sewage sludge from the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant to other facilities, including a waste-water treatment plant in Kailua that is next to an elementary school, as early as the end of the month.
State Sen. Pohai Ryan and Rep. Chris Lee joined City Council Vice Chairman Ikaika Anderson at Aikahi Elementary School Saturday to voice their displeasure on a decision about which they and their constituents were not adequately informed.
The city's plan is a temporary measure in response to the Sand Island plant nearing its capacity. The city had begun design and planning for a second "digester" that would expand the plant's processing capabilities, but Councilman Romy Cachola — who raised concerns about the plant's operator, Synagro Hawaii, and the safety of fertilizer pellets produced by the plant — successfully worked to get the $26 million needed for the project deleted from the budget.
Under the city-proposed transport plan, three 5,000-gallon trucks would make two runs each day from Sand Island to treatment facilities in Kailua, Honouliuli and Waianae at an estimated cost of $1.8 million for the first year. Officials say a one-day test run would be made first, with results monitored for a week to identify potential problems at receiving sites and surrounding areas.
Anderson, who represents District 3 (Kailua, Kaneohe, Waimanalo), said the Council had been told that trucking the waste from Sand Island to other facilities was being considered only as a contingency measure, one that would not be started for two or three years, if at all.
"The director of (city) environmental services (Tim Steinberger) directly deceived this Council by telling us that this was only being considered for 2013 or 2014," Anderson said. "This is not something that the Council or this community has been adequately informed of."
However, Steinberger said the Council was informed that trucking the waste material to the three proposed sites was an immediate possibility, given the situation at Sand Island. In a May 31 letter to the Council, Mayor Peter Carlisle said he considered it "paramount" to protect the city from fines resulting from the Sand Island facility being unable to deal with its capacity issues and emphasized that without funds for a second digester his alternatives were limited.
"These alternatives may include trucking the excess influent raw sludge to Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Waianae Wastewater Treatment Plant, lime stabilization with disposal at Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill, and/or to immediately stop issuing sewage discharge permits that would halt new construction in the Sand Island WWTP service area, which includes the Primary Urban Center."
"I don't know how (Anderson) got the impression that he was deceived," Steinberger said. "We always indicated this could be an immediate action. This was included in the advisory letter. I guess they didn't like the outcome."
Lee called the situation "a major failure in communication" and urged city officials to discuss the matter with the Council as well as the Kailua community.
"A lot has to happen before the first truck drives over," he said.
Ryan said she is particularly concerned that the daily transport of massive amounts of raw sewage would create a potential hazard all along the delivery route. And, like Anderson and Lee, she voiced concern about whether increasing the daily load at the Kailua plant would exacerbate existing problems in the area.
"There already is an odor," she said. "And there have already been instances in which students have had to leave school because of the smell."
Anderson said that while he disagrees with trucking the waste material to Kailua, he and the rest of the Council are "ready, willing and able" to sit with city officials to find a solution.