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City instituting new procedures at Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant

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Mayor Kirk Caldwell said that the city is establishing new standard operating procedures so that the flooding in the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant basement will not occur again.

The city is monitoring the treated wastewater entering the ocean from the pipeline outfall about two miles offshore and the state Department of Health has been notified about the problems, the mayor said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“The good news is the bacterial levels were well below the requirements at the outfall,” he said.

An extraordinary amount of wastewater from rains during Hurricane Ana Saturday through Sunday disrupted the operation, and some 20 million gallons that overflowed into the treatment plant’s basement has been pumped out and treated. 

The plant was still running on a generator, but Caldwell said the city hopes to have electricity by Wednesday. 

He said the cost of repairs had not yet been determined, but that the city had insurance to cover the expenses, minus a $75,000 deductible.

“I think we’re well on our way to returning back to normal..,” Caldwell said.

The treatment plant, the largest in the state, processes about 90 million gallons of wastewater a day from Red Hill to the edge of Hawaii Kai.

Caldwell, who has been delivering daily briefings about Ana, said the treatment plant was unable to handle some 240 million gallons entering the system as a result of the hurricane.

“We had a huge spike in inflows…” he said. “It just couldn’t handle the volume of water.”

Some of the plant’s electrical panels were short-circuited by the flooding but electricity continued to power the ultraviolet system that kills wastewater germs before entering the ocean.

Part of the problem stemmed from holes left open at a couple of clarifiers under construction at the wastewater treatment plant, allowing wastewater to enter the basement. Caldwell said in the future, the city is going to make sure that holes are temporarily sealed and there are bulkheads to prevent overflows.

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