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EPA requiring county to improve wastewater treatment at Honokowai plant

By Staff | Aug 25, 2011

HONOKOWAI — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that treated wastewater discharged into underground injection wells at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility contains levels of coliform bacteria that could exceed federal standards protecting the drinking water aquifer.

EPA is issuing a proposed compliance order that would require Maui County to monitor its injected effluent, improve disinfection of the treated wastewater within 30 days and install and operate an approved non-chlorine disinfection system by Dec. 31, 2013.

After December 2013, the injected wastewater may not exceed the R-1 level — the highest quality of reclaimed water specified in Hawaii State Regulations — for fecal coliform.

The county treats five million gallons per day of residential, commercial and industrial wastewater at LWRF. Each day, three million to four million gallons are discharged down the plant’s four injection wells without disinfection by ultraviolet radiation.

The Maui County administration disputes EPA’s allegations that the county has violated the Safe Drinking Water Act or any of its permit conditions.

According to a statement, the county also disputes that the brackish aquifer below the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility (LWRF) is an “underground source of drinking water.”

Nevertheless, the county has agreed to work cooperatively with EPA to improve the quality of wastewater treatment at LWRF as a necessary first step toward increased recycling and reuse of the treated wastewater.

The project, which will cost an estimated $3.4 million, is expected to be online by Dec. 31, 2013.

According to EPA, treating all of the wastewater at LWRF to R-1 water disinfection standards will ensure that bacteria will not contaminate a potential source of drinking water or be released into nearby coastal waters.

This upgraded treatment will also substantially increase the supply of recycled wastewater available for reuse by the county.

Island community groups represented by Earthjustice recently announced their intent to sue Maui County for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act at the West Side sewage treatment plant. The groups are awaiting results of a current research project.

The organizations include the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, West Maui Preservation Association, Surfrider Foundation-Maui Chapter and Sierra Club-Maui Group.

Hannah Bernard, president of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, noted Hannah Bernard, president of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, noted “… we’re pleased with this EPA proposal, but in fact, the county should have been doing this years ago.

“However, it’s a good first step in the right direction toward compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, and if all of the wastewater is disinfected, then it is much more likely to be reused on land where it is needed. But this action doesn’t address the flow of wastewater and other pollutants into our nearshore waters.

Lance Holter, chair of the Sierra Club-Maui Group, commented, “This bodes well for clean water and clean oceans… and our coastal reef systems.”

EPA’s proposed Consent Agreement and Final Order, agreed to by the county on July 29, is subject to a 30-day public comment period before it can be finalized.

Written comments must be received by e-mail or postmarked on or before Sept. 16, 2011.

Comments may be submitted to Bryan Goodwin, Regional Hearing Clerk, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IX, 75 Hawthorne St. (ORC-1), San Francisco, CA 94105; or to r9hearingclerk@epa.gov. Include the docket number for the proposed order: UIC-09-2011-0002.

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/region9/enforcement/pubnotices/pubnotice-maui-co.html or http://www.epa.gov/region9/water/drinking/dw-enforcement.html.