News Feature | July 10, 2017

Hawaii Officials Want Tougher Wastewater Rules

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

hawaii reg new

Officials in Hawaii are lobbying the state to bolster its wastewater treatment regulations.

“Concern about partially treated wastewater entering Hawaii Island’s marine areas prompted the county’s Environmental Management Commission to reach out to the state for a solution,” the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

“The commission voted to send a letter to state Health Director Virginia Pressler asking that the Department of Health require the wastewater also be disinfected in addition to partially treated, to further eliminate microbes in the water,” the report said.

Concerns arose when bacteria was found at the harbor at Kealakehe. County Environmental Management Commissioner Richard Bennett said he is concerned because there is no requirement to disinfect wastewater after initial treatment, the report said.

“I was a little surprised, to say the least,” Bennett said, per the report. “We know that microorganisms in partially treated … wastewaters are moving in the groundwater and emerging along the coast. [Health officials] believe ... that somehow the ground filters all this stuff, and there’s just no data to support that. It is my recommendation that the [Department of Health] change its rules. They’re going to have to do an administrative rule change, which takes forever, but let’s begin the process.”

Bennett advocated for an upgrade to ultraviolet light as a disinfectant.

In other recent island news, the U.S. EPA approved a plan for Hawaii to close seven large capacity cesspools and replace then with wastewater treatment plants.

“Large capacity cesspools serve multiple residential dwellings, or a commercial facility with the capacity to serve 20 or more people per day, EPA says, adding that cesspools collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. LCCs were banned under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in April 2005, EPA says,” BIVN reported.

Alexis Strauss, EPA’s acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, touted the news in a statement.

“EPA and the County of Hawaii are taking important steps to close these banned cesspools and replace them with modern wastewater treatment systems,” Strauss said. “These actions will protect Hawaii’s drinking water and coastal resources, as we seek to modernize Big Island water infrastructure.”

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Wastewater Disinfection Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Sandy Beach Waves," Daniel Ramirez © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: