Waste­water changes to af­fect pumpers, res­i­dents

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL - By Leila Fu­ji­mori lfu­ji­mori@starad­ver­tiser.com

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.”

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