Wastewater changes to affect pumpers, residents
Reduced hours and new procedures at three wastewater treatment plants will not only affect pumpers — businesses that haul liquid waste — but might cost residents with septic tanks or cesspools more for pumping services.
Pumpers said that until December they had been allowed to deposit their load into a manhole outside the Kahuku, Sand Island and Honouliuli wastewater treatment plants, but now they must enter the facilities and wait up to a halfhour for someone to unlock a valve.
In addition, new hours of operation took effect Jan. 4, including weekend closure of the Kahuku plant.
City Environmental Services Director Lori Kahikina said the changes were required after a 2014 Environmental Protection Agency audit. “The federal government wanted more oversight by our department, which means getting everyone off the road and into manned wastewater facilities where pumpers can be monitored and sampled,” she said.
Pumpers say the closure on weekends of the Kahuku Wastewater Treatment Plant will be especially hard on the North Shore community, where many residents rely on septic tanks and cesspools at their homes and businesses.
“People are going to be sticking a pump in their cesspool and pumping it out into the bushes to lower the level so they can take a shower or use the bathroom if they can’t get a truck out,” said Aqua Pumping owner Jimmy Sequin.
He estimates it would cost three times the average $185 charge for North Shore customers when taking into account the extra fuel and travel time it would take to reach the nearest stations open on weekends, which are in Pearl City and Kailua.
“It’s really bad,” said Steven Wilson, owner and operator of ABC Pumping. “It’s going to tie our hands as far as being able to help our customers who are dependent on us. People have emergencies with their septic systems,” and that includes weekends.
“A lot of pumpers, not me personally, but a lot of them are doubling up on their fees,” he said. “I kind of can’t blame them — burning all this extra fuel.”
“We do understand the North Shore and Windward sides of Oahu have many cesspools,” Kahikina said in a written statement to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “This will be a learning curve for everyone, including the home/business owner that may need to have their cesspools pumped on other days of the week to avoid the possibility of gouged charges.”
Days and times of operation at four of seven discharge sites remain unchanged, including Pearl City and Kailua, which are open seven days a week, she added.
Sequin says the city is making it harder for companies to do their job, raising dump fees 180 percent in the last five years.
“Their logic is the city doesn’t have enough money for workers to man the stations, so they cut back on personnel,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Sequin, whose business is 90 percent commercial, said he will discontinue serving North Shore residential customers. Since most residents work weekdays, much of the servicing is done on weekends.
“I’m going to focus on my (commercial) accounts,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to do anybody’s house.”