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KHNL Reports Possible Health Risks of Pollutants in Honolulu Wastewater

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KHNL News Reporter Mari-Ela David reports on the KHNL website on January 7th about a about a federal study that exposes a public health risk from Oahu’s wastewater. Here is her story. More can be found at the KHNL website.

HONOLULU (KHNL) – Environmental and health experts give insight about the pollutants that, according to a federal report, are flowing out of Honolulu’s wastewater treatment plants and into the ocean.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims the facilities fail to meet water quality standards, under the federal Clean Water Act.

The EPA and the City and County of Honolulu clash over whether the amount of pollutants discharged from the wastewater plants are enough to pose a danger to the public.

Controversy surrounding the Sand Island and Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment plants has environmentalists worried.

"We’re certainly concerned about the impacts of people who are canoeing kayaking and even swimmers who are in the water and I think it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure that risk is reduced," said Robert Harris, the Director of the Sierra Club.

Chlordane and dieldrin, which are pesticides, and a bacterium called enterococcus are among the pollutants in the wastewater the plants discharge into the ocean, according to the EPA’s findings.

"Dieldrin and chlordane, these are primarily from the legacy of a lot of termite treatments for decades," said Laurence Lau, Deputy Director of the Environmental Health Administration at the State Department of Health.

"One of the things that the EPA determined is that there are carcinogens that are being released and over time it is possible that could lead to cancer," said Harris.

The EPA says those who sail or boat through areas where the wastewater is dumped can be vulnerable.

"Anyone who uses recreational waters in and around discharges that are not meeting standards can be at risk for health defects, especially for people who are looking at catching and consuming fish," said EPA spokesperson Dean Higuchi.

As for beachgoers, Lau says it has not found any of the pollutants along Oahu’s shoreline.

"Our monitoring is right at the beach where people go in. Now, we know people may sail or boat through some of those outfall areas. If there’s actually full body contact with the water that far out to shore, it’s probably fairly rare," said Lau.

The EPA has ordered the city to upgrade both wastewater facilities.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann says that could cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars.

The city has 30 days from Tuesday to appeal the EPA’s decision.

The Mayor’s office on Wednesday said it is considering it.

Hawaii has one of the most vulnerable water supplies in the U.S. and historically we have been lax in being responsible about protecting it. All Hawaii builders including the Counties, State and Federal agencies use dangerous pesticides without concern for long term health effects. I have written on this Blog about the connection between these pesticides and breast cancer in women and with childhood cancers. Nothing will be do unless the public responds. KHNL should be given credit for alerting the public in a timely fashion about this current disclosure about wastewater. Let’s follow this story at KHNL and hope that it spurs action in government and the private corporate. Protect the Aina!