The mayor says a sewage-treatment plant upgrade could cost $1.2 billion. That ratepayers will be saddled with hefty bill increases. That meeting federal sewage pollution standards is too costly and unnecessary.

Sound familiar? That’s been the city of San Diego’s position, more or less, about the need for an upgrade at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, the city’s main sewage treatment plant.

It’s also being repeated by Honolulu officials, who hold an exemption from federal standards that has allowed them to dump sewage in the ocean without meeting Clean Water Act requirements.

San Diego recently got a pass from the EPA and won’t have to overhaul its treatment plant. If approved, the move would potentially save the city $1 billion or more.

Honolulu wasn’t so lucky. The EPA yesterday ordered the city to make upgrades. The city’s story offers some insight about what San Diego officials avoided: A costly legal battle and costly upgrades.

From the Honolulu Advertiser:

After nearly two decades of giving Honolulu’s contaminated sewage a pass, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the city yesterday to upgrade its treatment facilities.

City officials say the improvements could cost $1.2 billion, and Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he will likely appeal the EPA ruling. If upheld, yesterday’s decision could force the city to raise sewer fees.

The EPA concluded that wastewater discharged to the ocean from Honolulu’s two largest treatment plants does not meet federal water quality standards. …

City officials and some scientists have argued that secondary treatment was not necessary on O’ahu because wastewater is discharged far offshore, in deep water at the center of the world’s largest ocean.


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