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Get rid of injection wells

By Staff | Aug 27, 2009

Every day, an average of 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 gallons of treated sewage is dumped into the ground at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, and one million gallons is treated to R-1 quality and reused.

Add that up for years, and you have billions of gallons of nutrient-rich effluent marching toward the ocean.

With injection wells in use around the island, this practice is foolish on several levels.

The treated wastewater pollutes the ocean, harms reefs and the nearshore environment and fuels algae blooms.

Meanwhile, precious potable water is used to irrigate golf courses, parks, resorts and other large properties, while drinking water sources are taxed and quality declines.

In reviewing the injection well permit for the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was ready to let the county keep wasting water for the next ten years to the tune of 7,000,000 gallons per week at the stinky Honokowai plant.

Responding to public concerns, Mayor Charmaine Tavares told EPA the county wants to end its use of injection wells and pursue 100 percent reuse of treated wastewater in conjunction with a pilot project to grow algae for fuel production.

Her administration will create a plan to meet that goal within the next 12 to 18 months, and begin implementing the plan within five years to cut down use of the wells.

“We should first explore what options are available; second, analyze the options considering costs, time and other factors; and third, set volume reduction targets — then we will be on a positive path to accomplishing the goal of 100 percent use of reclaimed wastewater,” Tavares explained in a letter to the DIRE (Don’t Inject Redirect) Coalition last week Wednesday.

“I do not wish to be perceived as just ‘another politician’ making promises someone else will have to keep. I do want to put us on a course to complete projects that will increase use of reclaimed water.”

Mahalo to the many residents and scientists who spoke out on injection wells. It’s clear EPA and the Hawaii Department of Health are clueless on the hazards of injection wells, or these agencies would have taken meaningful action 20 years ago.

Also credit Mayor Tavares for taking steps to protect water resources and halt ocean pollution. Her initiatives for environmental protection and alternative energy have been creative and smart.