Pearl Harbor Sewage Treatment Plant Needs Fixes To Avoid Future ‘Catastrophic Outage’

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The US Navy has not yet said whether it will appeal a nearly $9 million fine from state health regulators over sewage discharge violations near Pearl Harbor.

The pollutants were released to the water between January 2020 and July 2022 from the Hawaii Wastewater Treatment Plant operated by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, the Department of Health said. The agency also found 212 heads of operations and maintenance failures.

The treatment plant serves most people on the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam water system. It processes about 5 million gallons a day – the third largest plant in Hawaii, according to Matt Kurano of the DOH Clean Water Branch.

“While an $8 million fine seems like a really huge amount, I think there is a need to force some of these facilities into compliance and force the people making the decisions to realize the real cost. maintenance of this infrastructure,” Kurano said. Conversation. “When you’re maintaining facilities that cost hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, compliance is not an option and we need to remove any kind of economic incentive.”

The plant has been in operation for decades, Kurano said, but the plant began reporting violations of effluent limits around 2020.

“The Navy self-reported, and then the Navy also self-reported when they found a workaround last month, but it was when we went to do our inspections that we identified additional issues that weren’t necessarily so pressing for the navy, but is certainly urgent as far as we are concerned,” Kurano said. “I think they’ve got big problems now, but they could have catastrophic problems later if they’re not solved. now.”

In a statement, Navy Region Hawaii said the Navy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed in June 2021 to address deficiencies at the treatment plant. The Navy said it is on track to meet those obligations, which could also address some of the issues reported by the state Department of Health.

The Navy said it continues to improve operations at the plant, which remains operational.

“Right now they’re back in compliance, or back in compliance, but they were really in a precarious position in terms of the equipment itself,” Kurano said. “A big part of the order is to have people come in – who are qualified and can do assessments – to identify exactly which parts need fixing, in what order exactly so that a slight malfunction at the factory doesn’t do it. , in effect, causing a catastrophic failure.”

Earlier this year, the Navy contracted a $30 million project to modernize the facility. This work should be completed by March 2024.

“I think they were in pretty good shape until 10 years ago. But in the last couple of years we’ve really seen that the facility was in bad shape,” Kurano said.

This interview aired on The Conversation on September 28, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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