Wastewater plant rehab bill recommended- upgrades to Hilo facility long overdue

A Hawaii County Council committee on Tuesday recommended passage of a bill that would split a rehabilitation project for the Hilo Wastewater Treatment Plant into two phases.

The long-awaited project, which will replace much of the deteriorating facility, will begin its first phase in June and is expected to take about three years to complete. A second phase is scheduled to begin next year.


Department of Environmental Management Deputy Director Brenda Iokepa-Moses told the council’s Finance Committee on Tuesday that the project presents a catch-22 for the county, noting that the current administration isn’t responsible for the sorry state of the facility, but is nonetheless on the hook to restore it.

“One way or another, we have to deal with it,” Iokepa-Moses said, drawing comparisons to ongoing wastewater problems on Oahu, including the U.S. Navy’s Red Hill storage facility leaks and discoveries of “forever chemicals” contaminating the Navy’s Pearl Harbor drinking water system.

The measure discussed Tuesday also allocates $17 million in general obligation bonds to both phases, with $7 million going to the first phase and $10 million to the second.

However, the county has previously estimated that a full rehabilitation of the facility will cost over $100 million.

The committee voted to recommend the bill’s passage after brief discussion. It now heads to the full council.

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