Lawsuit alleges businesses are victims of a massive city sewer fee ‘ripoff’

Updated: Jan. 12, 2021 at 5:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in October 2018, Sherman Louie said he was shocked when he got his sewer bill from the city for his Waipahu building.

The commercial landowner had purchased the historic Arakawa’s Store four years before but the building had remained empty for most of that period due to renovations.

“After the construction was done. They back charged me and my bill was $25,000,” said Louie.

“The way they are billing people is the biggest, greatest ripoff there is.”

Louie is now suing the city, alleging its method of calculating the sewer bills for commercial land owners is not based on actual usage just old estimates.

He said his sewer tab has since ballooned to $60,000.

The city told him the old Arakawa’s building generates nearly 100,000 gallons of sewage every month. The owner said his experts determined that it was generating a little more than a third of that.

His attorney, Megan Kau, said she believes that hundreds of businesses are being overcharged.

The city would not comment directly on the lawsuit but said that in general sewer fees for businesses are not based on current usage but on usage between 2010 and 2012.

Louie said that was when the previous owner used the building as a homeless shelter, which generated much more sewage.

“That doesn’t sound right that you get billed a sewer charge based on something eight or nine years ago,” said Louie.

Louie said he tried to get an explanation for how the city calculated his bill.

He even met with Lori Kahikiha, then the head of the city Department of Environmental Services, who told him he had no right to appeal.

“They explained to her the problem, they explained to her the injustice,” said Kau.

“She was the one making the decision, she was the one who informed her they didn’t have the right to appeal, which was wrong.”

Kahikina, who is now the interim CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, told Hawaii News Now that city rules don’t allow appeals for sewer bills.

She declined further comment, citing the pending lawsuit.

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