EPA takes action on 2021 Kailua sewage plant discharge to prevent future spills

Over millions of gallons of wastewater from the Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant was discharged in 2021.
Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 5:13 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2022 at 5:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has entered into a consent order with the city over the discharge of millions of gallons of wastewater from the Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in 2021.

The federal agency said it is now requiring the city to take steps to prevent future discharges at the plant by requiring additional monitoring and evaluations of its equipment.

Environmental activists said stiff penalties also should have been issued.

“No doubt, a fine should have been issued,” said Carroll Cox of Envirowatch Inc. “This repeats itself so often.”

The EPA said the treatment plant also exceeded its allowable limits for bacteria for wastewater discharges in June 2020, April 2021 and December 2021.

The Kailua plant treats up to 15 million gallons of wastewater per day for much of Windward Oahu’s residents, releasing the treated wastewater into the ocean 3,500 feet offshore of the Mokapu Penninsula.

The EPA said the discharges — which occurred over 10 days — were due to equipment failure.

The high bacterial levels prompted the city to post warnings at nearby beaches.

According to the city, one of the rotator arms at the plant’s two bio tower units for the secondary treatment process malfunctioned.

That forced plant operators to use just one bio tower unit to process all of the wastewater, decreasing the efficiency of the unit, resulting in an increases in the bacterial counts.

The city said the proper fixes have already been made.

“We repaired the equipment and have it back in service. And then we generally don’t have any exceedances,” said Roger Babcock, director of the city Department of Environmental Services.

“We’re required to monitor at several beaches in the area and those numbers never elevated. We’ve never exceeded what what they’re supposed to. So there was no danger to public health. "

The city added that it plans to install an ultraviolent disinfection system at the Kailua plant to further boost the treatment process.