Honolulu to Upgrade Sewer System by 2020

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.

The settlement, which also resolves lawsuits brought by the Sierra Club, Hawaii?s Thousand Friends and Our Children?s Earth Foundation, includes a comprehensive compliance schedule for the city to upgrade its wastewater collection system by June 2020. Under the settlement, the Honouliuli wastewater treatment plant will need to be upgraded to secondary treatment by 2024. The Sand Island plant will need to be upgraded by 2035, but could be extended to 2038 based on a showing of economic hardship.

Work on the wastewater collection system will include rehabilitation and replacement of both gravity and force main sewer pipes, backup strategies to minimize the risks of force main spills, a cleaning and maintenance program, improvements to Honolulu?s program to control fats, oils and grease from entering into the wastewater system from food establishments, and repair to pump stations.

?Today?s settlement represents a significant commitment that will address the City and County of Honolulu?s aging wastewater collection and treatment systems,? said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department?s Environment and Natural Resources Division. ?The end result will not just be an improvement to the system?s infrastructure. It will also significantly reduce both the public health risk caused by exposure to pathogens in raw sewage and the amount of harmful pollutants entering Honolulu?s vibrant marine environment.?

?This settlement will lead to significant improvements in water quality for the people of Oahu, and for the visitors to the island?s world-class beaches. It calls for aggressive actions in the near term to upgrade the city?s sewage collection system, and set outs a longer term schedule for construction of secondary treatment at the Sand Island and Honouliuli plants,? said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA?s Administrator for the Pacific Southwest region. ?The work is on a multi-year schedule to allow the city to spread out the costs of this critical program.?

?This settlement has many positive features, and among the biggest are the collection system improvements to prevent future major raw sewage discharges, as happened at the Ala Wai Canal in 2006,? said Laurence Lau, the State Department of Health?s Deputy Director for Environmental Health.

In addition, the city will be paying a total fine of $1.6 million to be split between the federal government and the state of Hawaii to resolve violations of the federal Clean Water Act and the state of Hawaii?s water pollution law, such as the March 24, 2006, Beachwalk force main break that spilled approximately 50 million gallons of sewage into the Ala Wai Canal.

The settlement, lodged in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

House Approves Increased Drinking Water SRF Authorizations

The House of Representatives recently approved the Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010 (H.R. 5320), a bill introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the Water Environment Federation reported. The measure authorizes greater financial assistance to drinking water utilities and to strengthen the program for screening and testing of potential endocrine disruptors in drinking water.

The bill would provide as much as $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2011 to assist drinking water systems through state revolving funds (SRFs). The authorization would increase to $1.6 billion in 2012 and $1.8 billion in 2013. Federal appropriations for the drinking water state revolving funds fluctuated between $816 million and $845 million during 2000-2009, then jumped to $1.387 billion for 2010.

In the latest appropriations bill for EPA and other environmental agencies, a House appropriations subcommittee approved $1.2 billion for the drinking water state revolving funds. The bill would also mandate a reduction in the allowable lead content of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures, by redefining the lead-free requirement as not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead. This requirement is significantly lower than the existing definition, which allows as much as 8 percent lead.

Climate Change Threatening Water Supplies

More than 1,100 U.S. counties ? a full one-third of all counties in the lower 48 states ? now face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming, and more than 400 of these counties will be at extremely high risk for water shortages, based on estimates from a new report by Tetra Tech for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report uses publicly available water use data across the United States and climate projections from a set of models used in recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) work to evaluate withdrawals related to renewable water supply. The report finds that 14 states face an extreme or high risk to water sustainability, or are likely to see limitations on water availability as demand exceeds supply by 2050. These areas include parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. In particular, in the Great Plains and Southwest United States, water sustainability is at extreme risk.

The more than 400 counties identified as being at greatest risk in the report reflects a 14-fold increase from previous estimates. For a look at county- and state-specific maps detailing the report findings (including a Google Earth map), go to http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/watersustainability/? and http://rd.tetratech.com/climatechange/projects/nrdc_climate.asp.

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