Possible health risks of pollutants in Honolulu wastewater - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Possible health risks of pollutants in Honolulu wastewater

Robert Harris Robert Harris
Laurence Lau Laurence Lau
Dean Higuchi Dean Higuchi

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Environmental and health experts give insight about the pollutants that, according to a federal report, are flowing out of Honolulu's wastewater treatment plants and into the ocean.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims the facilities fail to meet water quality standards, under the federal Clean Water Act.

The EPA and the City and County of Honolulu clash over whether the amount of pollutants discharged from the wastewater plants are enough to pose a danger to the public.

Controversy surrounding the Sand Island and Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment plants has environmentalists worried.

"We're certainly concerned about the impacts of people who are canoeing kayaking and even swimmers who are in the water and I think it's in everyone's interest to make sure that risk is reduced," said Robert Harris, the Director of the Sierra Club.

Chlordane and dieldrin, which are pesticides, and a bacterium called enterococcus are among the pollutants in the wastewater the plants discharge into the ocean, according to the EPA's findings.

"Dieldrin and chlordane, these are primarily from the legacy of a lot of termite treatments for decades," said Laurence Lau, Deputy Director of the Environmental Health Administration at the State Department of Health.

"One of the things that the EPA determined is that there are carcinogens that are being released and over time it is possible that could lead to cancer," said Harris.

The EPA says those who sail or boat through areas where the wastewater is dumped can be vulnerable.

"Anyone who uses recreational waters in and around discharges that are not meeting standards can be at risk for health defects, especially for people who are looking at catching and consuming fish," said EPA spokesperson Dean Higuchi.

As for beachgoers, Lau says it has not found any of the pollutants along Oahu's shoreline.

"Our monitoring is right at the beach where people go in. Now, we know people may sail or boat through some of those outfall areas. If there's actually full body contact with the water that far out to shore, it's probably fairly rare," said Lau.

The EPA has ordered the city to upgrade both wastewater facilities.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann says that could cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars.

The city has 30 days from Tuesday to appeal the EPA's decision.

The Mayor's office on Wednesday said it is considering it.

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