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City and County of Honolulu Settlement

(Washington, DC - August 10, 2010) A comprehensive settlement has been reached with the City and County of Honolulu that will address Clean Water Act compliance at Honolulu's wastewater collection and treatment systems, the Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Hawaii Attorney General's Office, Hawaii Department of Health, and three environmental groups announced today.

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Overview of Company and Facility Locations

The City and County of Honolulu's (Honolulu), wastewater treatment system serves a population of nearly a million as well as various commercial and industrial facilities located within its borders. Today's actions address two of Honolulu's eight wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and its sanitary sewer collection system.

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Honolulu has illegal sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) throughout the city's collection system and effluent violations from its two largest wastewater treatment plants resulting in violations of the City's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and Sections 301 and 402 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The overflows have caused millions of gallons of untreated sewage to be discharged into waters of the United States.

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Injunctive Relief

Honolulu is required under the consent decree to pay a $1.6 million penalty and address sanitary sewer overflows throughout its collection system, which serves most of the developed portions of the Island of Oahu, and to upgrade its two largest treatment plants (Sand Island and Honouliuli) to secondary treatment.

  • Sanitary Sewer System - Within 10 years Honolulu is required to upgrade and repair its sewer collection system and implement an improved cleaning and maintenance program intended to eliminate SSOs from the city's sewer system.
    The collection system work EPA is seeking incorporates and builds on compliance obligations imposed in prior enforcement actions - including a 1995 consent decree and a 2007 stipulated order. The City estimates that the cost of the injunctive relief for the collection system will be approximately $3.5 billion
  • Wastewater Treatment Plants - The requirement to construct secondary treatment derives from EPA's decision not to renew 301(h) permits that authorized variances from secondary treatment requirements.
    The City appealed EPA's permit denials to the Environmental Appeals Board. As part of this settlement, Honolulu will withdraw its appeals. The consent decree requires completion of construction and full implementation of all remedial and control measures at the Honouliuli WWTP no later than June 1, 2024 and at the Sand Island WWTP by no later than December 31, 2035, with an opportunity to extend the Sand Island WWTP schedule an additional 3 years for financial hardship. The City estimates that the cost of the injunctive relief to install secondary treatment will be over $1.5 billion.

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Pollutants Reductions

Honolulu will prevent millions of gallons of untreated sewagefrom being discharged from its sewer system.

The settlement also requires secondary treatment of approximately 100 million gallons per day at its wastewater treatment plants. By increasing its treatment levels to secondary treatment the City will reduce discharges of 3 million pounds of total suspended solids and 30 million pounds of biological oxygen demand annually.

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Health and Environmental Effects

The above mentioned reductions will substantially reduce releases of the following pollutants:

  • Microbial Pathogens
  • Toxics
  • Nutrients
  • Total Suspended Solids (TSS) - TSS indicates the measure of suspended solids in wastewater, effluent or water bodies. High levels of TSS in a water body can diminish the amount of light that penetrates the water column and reduce photosynthesis and the production of oxygen.
  • Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) - BOD is an indirect measure of the biologically degradable material present in organic wastes. High BOD means there is an abundance of biologically degradable material that will consume oxygen from the water during the degradation process. It may take away oxygen that is needed for aquatic organisms to survive.

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Civil Penalty

The settlement agreement requires Honolulu pay a $1.6 million penalty to be split evenly between the United States and the State of Hawaii within 30 days of the effective date of the settlement.

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State Partners

The State of Hawaii is a party to the consent decree.

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Environmental Groups

In 2004, a coalition of three environmental groups (Sierra Club, Hawaii's Thousand Friends, and Our Children's Earth Foundation) filed an independent enforcement action against the City. The environmental groups also intervened in this action. The environmental groups are a party to this Decree and will dismiss their independent actions in this matter.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for Hawaii, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For more information, contact:

Ginny Phillips
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington DC 20460
(202) 564-6139

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