Bill to ad­dress Salt Lake wa­ter odor ad­vances

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL - By Jayna Omaye jo­maye@starad­ver­

The City Coun­cil is ad­vanc­ing a bill aimed at ad­dress­ing long-stand­ing con­cerns about foul odors em­a­nat­ing from wa­ters around the Honolulu Coun­try Club in Salt Lake. Un­der cur­rent law, the city re­quires stream own­ers to main­tain, dredge and clear the wa­ters and to re­move de­bris, veg­e­ta­tion, silt or other items that may in­ter­fere with the wa­ter’s nat­u­ral flow. Bill 43 would add that any­thing that cre­ates an un­san­i­tary con­di­tion or be­comes a public nui­sance must also be re­moved. Ad­di­tion­ally, the bill would clar­ify that the city Depart­ment of Fa­cil­ity Main­te­nance is in charge of in­spect­ing wa­ter­ways and en­forc­ing the law. Vi­o­la­tors could face fines of up to $500 a day.

The bill, in­tro­duced by Coun­cil­man Joey Mana­han, who rep­re­sents the Salt Lake area, passed the sec­ond of three read­ings ear­lier this month. The mea­sure is sched­uled to be taken up at Wednes­day’s Public Works, In­fra­struc­ture and Sus­tain­abil­ity Com­mit­tee meet­ing at 1 p.m.

Mana­han said the bill would pro­vide the city with the tools needed to push the Honolulu Coun­try Club and other own­ers to main­tain wa­ter­ways. Nearby res­i­dents have long com­plained about odors com­ing from the coun­try club’s wa­ters, usu­ally dur­ing the sum­mer. “It’s a re­cur­ring is­sue,” he said. “(But) it’s not specif­i­cally aimed at the coun­try club. (There are) a lot of these wa­ter­ways that go onto pri­vate prop­erty. It gives more clar­ity to the is­sue.”

Mana­han had said in De­cem­ber that Honolulu Coun­try Club Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Gary Brown told him that the coun­try club pur­chased a dredg­ing ma­chine for about $100,000. Mana­han said res­i­dents have sent him videos of the coun­try club us­ing the ma­chine. But he said “it’s hard to tell what the over­all re­sult is.”

Brown did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. Ross Sasamura, city fa­cil­ity main­te­nance di­rec­tor, said in a state­ment that the city’s cur­rent law places re­spon­si­bil­ity on a pri­vate owner for re­mov­ing de­bris and other items only for flood-con­trol pur­poses. Sasamura said the depart­ment has not re­ceived any other com­plaints since early last year about odors com­ing from the coun­try club’s wa­ter­way.

He has said the depart­ment can’t pin­point what’s caus­ing the odor.

For nearly two decades Salt Lake res­i­dents have raised con­cerns about an odor like rot­ting veg­e­ta­tion and com­post em­a­nat­ing from the wa­ter­way and banks around the coun­try club. Long­time res­i­dent Den­nis Egge, who lives at nearby Lakeshore Tower, said the odor comes and goes but is most po­tent dur­ing the hot sum­mer months. The odor, which he said comes from the veg­e­ta­tion and al­gae cov­er­ing the wa­ter, has been a re­cur­ring prob­lem since he moved to the area nearly 20 years ago.

“I know the peo­ple who are liv­ing right next to the bank, they’re prob­a­bly re­ally an­noyed,” he said. “We push them (the city) to push the coun­try club.”

The coun­try club had dredged the wa­ter­way through the mid-1990s un­til fed­eral wildlife of­fi­cials warned that the dredg­ing was en­croach­ing on the habi­tats of en­dan­gered species. By the time those re­stric­tions were re­laxed, the equip­ment was not op­er­a­ble and bud­get con­straints re­duced the club’s abil­ity to tackle reg­u­lar main­te­nance. The wa­ter­way was cleared as part of a city-led ef­fort com­pleted in 2005 at a cost of more than $1 mil­lion. At that time, the city and coun­try club signed an agree­ment that the club “shall be re­spon­si­ble for main­te­nance of the stream banks and wa­ter­ways.” Thick veg­e­ta­tion has sprouted and de­bris from storm drains has ac­cu­mu­lated.

The state Depart­ment of Health, af­ter re­ceiv­ing a com­plaint, took read­ings from the wa­ter­way near the Coun­try Club Vil­lage con­do­mini­ums in Novem­ber 2015 and found el­e­vated lev­els of hy­dro­gen sul­fide, de­scribed as smelling like rot­ten eggs. The depart­ment had said the read­ings were not at lev­els that would cause health con­cerns. DOH re­ceived an­other com­plaint in Septem­ber but an in­spec­tor did not de­tect a hy­dro­gen sul­fide smell at that time.

“On very bad days, the odor per­me­ates through our park­ing garage and into our apart­ments,” said Lynn Ta­gawa, a Coun­try Club Vil­lage res­i­dent, in writ­ten tes­ti­mony to the Coun­cil this month. “On many days the un­pleas­ant smell lingers in my apart­ment and I hes­i­tate to in­vite guests to my home. The smell is not only un­pleas­ant, but un­com­fort­able to live with. This prob­lem has been ne­glected much too long.” Sasamura said the city plans to in­stall me­tal screens at more than 100 catch basin in­lets along sev­eral streets in the area, a project ex­pected to be­gin in July or Au­gust. The city will also build two basins to cap­ture some of the sed­i­ment, de­bris and rocks that come from the edges of Alia­manu Crater be­fore they en­ter the wa­ter­way, he said. That project is slated to start in the spring of 2019 af­ter the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment process is com­pleted.

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