City council committee to discuss sewage spills in light of recent DOH enforcement

The Honolulu City Council wants answers from the county administration about how it’s been handling sewer spills and stormwater overflows.

The council’s public works committee has the topic on the Aug. 17 agenda, requested by councilman Trevor Ozawa after the Department of Health told Always Investigating the city faces a stiff fine and must make big changes after nearly a half-million gallons of sewage spilled in August 2015.

The council agenda lists lessons from that spill, and more recent storms and spills.

Ozawa said he also wants the Department of Environmental Services to tell the council about a pending 2015 spill consent agreement that Always Investigating recently revealed.

The state told us its terms were settled on a couple months ago, but the document is still pending submission to the city council by the administration. The environmental services department says it’s still reviewing the document for corrections and legal counsel.

The state says the agreement will involve a fine, changes to staffing and managerial practices, standard operating practices, infrastructure spending, and maintenance in order to prevent the kinds of preventable lapses the state’s investigation found contributed to the large 2015 spill.

The city said the environmental services department has already been implementing lessons learned from the 2015 spill, and points to a trend of a decreasing number of sewage spills over the past decade.

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