“City Underestimates Public Health Risk from Kailua Sewage, State Warns: This Must Not Happen”

The Ministry of Health is currently investigating the cause of high levels of bacteria in treated sewage from the Kailua Area Sewage Treatment Plant, built in the 1960s. Between April 8 and May 4, test samples detected unusually high levels of enterococci in the treated sewage discharged about a mile outside Kailua Bay. State environmental officials expressed concern about the health risks and advised the public to avoid the waters in the area. The state’s own news release on May 5 revealed the severity of the bacteria levels, which violated the city’s National Pollutant Emissions Elimination System permit.

In response, the city of Kailua issued a press release stating that the bacteria levels had returned to acceptable levels over the past three days and that the plant was back in compliance. The city is still investigating the persistent high bacterial levels in the plant. The city also tested for bacteria along the bay’s shoreline during the same period, and the results showed high levels of enterococci for four days. Although the city claimed that this was due to storm runoff from heavy rains, state health officials could not confirm whether this was the case.

Enterococci can be harmful to humans, as it can cause various infections, requiring long-term antibiotics. Both state and federal regulators continue to investigate the city’s sewage operations at the plant, particularly after the Environmental Protection Agency required the city to take steps to effectively treat bacteria in Kailua sewage last December. The city will need to take six different steps to improve plant operations, most of which should be completed within a year.

The city has requested $34 million in the city’s 2024 budget to improve the city’s solid waste management and has spent $11 million on backup systems to treat sewage with ultraviolet light to minimize enterococcal levels. Meanwhile, The Civil Beat’s Community Health Coverage is supported by various organizations, including the Atherton Family Foundation and the Cook Foundation.

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