by: Leland Kim
KAILUA (KHNL) - For a while, people who live near the Kailua wastewater treatment plant on windward Oahu have complained about the smell.
Now the state health department has fined the city and county of Honolulu. The $170,000 fine was for "exceeding the allowable level" of pollution. People who live near the plant say they're simply sick of the smell.
The Kailua treatment plant processes 15 million gallons of waste water each day. It's used for irrigation and it's the nasty smell that gets to people who live nearby.
"Especially in the nighttime, it's really strong and I don't like it at all," said Esmeralda Mora, a Kailua resident.
"When we first open up the car we're all gagging," said Valesia Seltmann, a Kaneohe resident. "It's very, very strong."
And this concerns local parents because the treatment plant is right next to an elementary school.
The plant has been next to Aikahi elementary for more than 30 years.
"My older daughter has allergies," said Seltmann. "And I often think, when they're out playing, breathing in whatever contaminants in the air, I do have concerns about that."
Health experts said the emissions coming out of the plant are not harmful. The hydrogen sulfate would have to be 400 times the current level for it to be dangerous. But children, especially those who are physically active, can get sick from the contamination.
"I would expect that young children would be more sensitive to nuisance odors than an adult," said Leslie Au, a toxicologist with the Hawai'i department of health.
Parents want the plant to find a way of eliminating the smell all together.
"I hope they work on it because they really need to," said Mora.
Until that happens, people who live near the plant will just have to continue holding their noses.