By Beth Hillyer
SAND ISLAND (KHNL) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is disqualifying the city and county of Honolulu's application for a waiver from secondary treatment requirements.
However the city believes the plant's operations are consistent with Clean Water Act objectives of protecting public health and the environment.
The city estimates the potential costs of construction alone would exceed $1.2 billion if both the Honouliuli and Sand Island treatment plants are forced to upgrade.
Wastewater is filtered at the Sand Island treatment plant then discharged about two miles out and 230 feet deep.
"Today's proposal is to deny the city and county's application for a waiver from secondary treatment requirements under the clean water act," explained Dean Higuchi of the Envirnomental Protection Agency.
This is the second Oahu treatment plant under scrutiny.
Just as it did with the Honouliuli denial, the city will oppose Sand Island improvements with a scientific and technical response.
The city continues to improve operations, using an ultraviolet light disinfection system and other plant upgrades.
"The plant currently discharges it's water at a primary lower level of treatment and based on data the City provided us, it does not meet water quality standards with that discharges," said Higuchi.
"Well the concern is, water quality standards are set to protect human health and the environment. Now when those water quality standards are not met what you have is risk of potential exposure to bacteria or pathological organisms," stated Higuchi.