City lifts moratorium on new sewer hookups in Pearl City - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

City lifts moratorium on new sewer hookups in Pearl City

Tim Steinberger Tim Steinberger
Steve Metter Steve Metter

The Plaza in Pearl City, an assisted living development, had been put in jeopardy because of a moratorium on new sewer connections from Pearl City to Halawa. But construction can now proceed, as the city has come up with a way to get around the moratorium.

Actually, the city Department of Environmental Services has found a way to get around the Pearl City wastewater pump station, which had reached capacity. Engineers have come up with an interim solution in which the city will install new valves to separate the Pearl City pump station from flows that originate in Mililani and Waipahu. Those flows will be directed through a pipe from the Waipahu pump station, the city said.

The interim plan will allow for new sewer connections until a major new sewer pipe from the Waipahu station is completed in 2018. That's when the moratorium was scheduled to end.

"Typically we don't like doing interim fixes," said city Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger. "We just like to do the permanent, long term fix, but in this situation we deemed that it was reasonable as far as cost, and it would make a big benefit to the community."

The Plaza's developer has one word to describe his reaction: "Relieved," said Steve Metter, CEO of MW Group. "You put all this energy into a project and then you find out there's a moratorium. And the fact that the city has worked with us and worked with the community to build -- relieved."

MW Group is currently finishing construction on a Plaza facility in Moanalua. The 200 construction workers there were in jeopardy of losing their jobs if the Pearl City facility couldn't be built. A planned development at the old Kam Drive-In site can also move forward, as well as new sewer connections for flows of less than 2,000 gallons a day, or about five houses' worth. Applications for larger developments requiring more than 2,000 gallons a day will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Part of the fix involves diversion, but Steinberger said it also involved timing. "The real issue is schedule. Because we have a fix in mind that can take us up until the consent decree required project in place, which will take us to 2018. And at that point everything will be unrestricted," he said.

The Plaza will also be built in two phases to avoid overloading the system. "Now we're going to do a hundred and 60 beds to care for 160 residents in phase one, and then three years later, do phase two," said Metter.

The sewer moratorium had already become an issue in the race for Honolulu mayor, and was mentioned in this week's mayoral debate on KITV. But the city said the interim fix wasn't politically motivated. "Politically, if you're talking down that line, you don't come out and announce a moratorium at this time. You wait," said Steinberger.

Metter said construction of The Plaza at Pearl City has been delayed somewhat because of the moratorium, but is scheduled to get underway during the second quarter of 2013.

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