Kailua Sewer Plant cited again

Tin Shing Chao
Tin Shing Chao
Ryan Markham
Ryan Markham

KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are more problems for Honolulu's sewers, problems state investigators say could have been avoided.  The city has been hit with a hefty fine for breaking health rules and willfully sending employees into a dangerous space even when managers knew better.

The Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant has been cited three times already this year to go along with other fines in years past and the dollar amount goes up with each fine.

It's no secret, there is plenty of gas at sewer treatment plant and those gases can be dangerous which is why the city has been cited for sending two employees into confined space with explosive gas and not enough oxygen.

"The ultimate result can be the employee being seriously injured or death," said Tin Shing Chao, Occupational Health Branch Manager, Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

He's investigated the Kailua treatment plant which has been fined various times in the past, yet the state says managers continue to send employees down despite posted danger signs.

"That management knew or should have known about the potential hazards for employees and still sent employees into the situation," said Ryan Markham, Hawaii Occupational Safety & Health Division Operations Manager.

The complaint was originally brought up by an employee who blew the whistle.  The state investigated and interviewed managers who admitted fault.

"One of the managers that sent them (employees) in, I talked with him and he actually admitted that he did wrong," said Chao.

The city's violations have gone from serious, to repeated serious now to willful because it continues to violate the same rules.

"Anytime there's a willful violation we consider that very serious and that's why the penalties are high," said Markham.

The two recent fines total of $140,000 and all employees must be retrained on safety.

"We are aware of the fines. We believe they are excessive and we will be consulting with HIOSH (Hawaii Occupational Safety & Health Division)," said Tim Steinberger, City of Honolulu Environmental Services Director, in a written statement.

Attorneys for the city and state are scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss a possible settlement and resolution.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.