HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Heading toward a sewage crisis Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle implements a plan to start trucking raw sewage sludge but there are also steps to protect the environment.
Mayor Carlisle used the example from earlier this year when the Waimanalo Gulch landfill failed and trash, medical waste and needles wound up on the beaches. It wasn't pretty, but he says it will be even worse if the Sand Island sewage digester fails.
"We have a problem. We need another egg," announced Mayor Carlisle.
He's not referring to breakfast, but an egg as in a digester which breaks down sewage sludge and can turn it into fertilizer. The egg at Sand Island is beyond full. The city needs to flush out the excess so it will start by trucking at most one 5,000 gallon truck load a day for 30 days to the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant in Ewa Beach.
For now they will not go to Waianae because its digester is full of silt from recent storms. And they'll skip Kailua because that facility is fixing its digester and building an odor control system. That leaves Honouliuli which has plenty of space for sludge.
"I am painfully, completely and utterly aware that nobody wants this in their community but you have to realize we have to play with the cards we are dealt," said Mayor Carlisle. "Not in my backyard has no place with this since we are all responsible for creating the waste that is going to all of our treatment plants."
The city says it's been trucking raw sewage for decades to the landfill and other sewage plants. City administrators say there has been a single spill or accident from city drivers.
Still the mayor also says he will do an environmental assessment to study the impact of trucking more sludge something the mayor credited Kailua lawmaker Cynthia Thielen for helping push through.
"I think that's responsible leadership. Now I will challenge the council go back and do it the way it should have been done put the money in the upcoming budget and build that second digester at sand island," said Rep. Thielen, (R) Kailua.
She's referring to the Honolulu City council which pulled the $26 million at the last minute that would have been used to build the second digester. Now that money's gone, scrambled, with no backup which will lead to trucking sewage for a longer period of time.
"It is very tempting for me to say something smart alec like they have put their foot in a bucket of sludge," said Mayor Carlisle, referring to the council.
"The mayor was elected to do a job. The council was elected to do a job. I'd like to tell the mayor now is the time to sit down and solve the issue at hand. No more blame games. Don't point any fingers at anybody," said Ikaika Anderson, Honolulu City Councilmember representing Windward Oahu.
Council member Tom Berg was one of two who voted for the secondary digester funding. Now he is using the sludge trucking concerns as an opportunity to try and divert the $5.5 billion the city will use to build the Honolulu rail transit to other areas saying if the city can't provide basic infrastructure how will it accomplish the rail.
"This is the aftermath of voters electing leaders that play kick the can with our necessities. Our own waste is backing up to City Hall and never forget it, this was done by design to go gung-ho over funding rail instead of fixing our basic infrastructure. It is time to ask the voter, 'Do you want to continue to fund the rail project or take that money and fix the dilemma that transpires after you flush?" said Tom Berg, Honolulu City Councilmember representing Leeward Oahu.
The city will hold a public meeting to talk about the plan to truck sludge. It will be August 1 at 7:00 at Mission Memorial Auditorium located next to Honolulu Hale. The Department of Environmental Services will also set up a hotline for people to report any problems during the sewage testing phase.