EPA takes action to address pollution violations at Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant

(UI) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has entered into an order on consent with the city and county of Honolulu to ensure pollutant discharge requirements are met at the Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. This order on consent will ensure that discharges from this facility to the Pacific Ocean are safe for the marine environment, and that the facility is in compliance with the Clean Water Act.

In January 2021, the facility experienced a failure at one of two biotower treatment units, causing the plant’s discharge to exceed limits for bacteria. The city and county of Honolulu posted beach warning signs at the direction of the Department of Health, although beach monitoring conducted during this time period indicated that contamination did not reach nearby beaches. Additionally, the facility’s discharge exceeded bacteria limits in June 2020, April 2021, and December 2021. 

“This order ensures that the Kailua Treatment Plant takes steps to prevent any further bacteria exceedances in what the plant discharges into the ocean,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Compliance with the Clean Water Act permit is essential to protecting the public health of Hawaiians and Hawaii’s coastal waters. With our partners at Hawaii Department of Health, we at EPA will continue to provide vigilant oversight over Hawaii’s wastewater plants.”

The city and county of Honolulu operates the Kailua treatment plant, which treats up to 15 million gallons per day of wastewater collected from the Ahuimanu, Kaneohe, and Kailua communities. The facility is designed to release treated wastewater to the Pacific Ocean 3,500 ft offshore of the Mokapu Peninsula. The treatment plant is authorized to discharge wastewater via a Clean Water Act permit issued by the Hawaii Department of Health.

To prevent further exceedances, EPA is requiring the facility to increase monitoring for bacteria to ensure water quality is protected and the facility complies with its Clean Water Act permit; perform a condition assessment and maintenance evaluation of wastewater treatment units to prevent additional failures; and develop and implement an operations manual to optimize bacteria removal treatment.

Separately, EPA has a consent decree with the city and county of Honolulu for wastewater improvements. The consent decree was issued in 2010, and requires upgrades to the wastewater collection sewer system, reduction of spills from the sanitary sewers, and upgrades to the Sand Island and Honouliuli wastewater treatment plants.

Upgrades are required to be completed by 2035.


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