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<br />June 19, 2018 <br /> <br />PRESS RELEASE <br /> <br />Status of Proposed Nāālehu Wastewater Treatment Plant‛ <br />The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requiring the County of Hawai‛i to close <br />Large Capacity Cesspools (LCC) in Pāhala and Nāālehu. The County Department of ‛ <br />Environmental Management (DEM) currently operates three LCCs in Nāālehu. Untreated ‛ <br />wastewater from Nā’ālehu cesspools is currently disposed directly into the ground. This <br />disposal method is a potential health hazard, and harms the environment on many levels. <br />DEM is working to find the best replacement technology and a suitable location for a new <br />wastewater treatment plant. The current proposed technology is an environment-friendly <br />option that fully complies with regulatory requirements that help protect our precious ground <br />and ocean water quality. It is a low- energy natural process that will treat wastewater in <br />lagoons and then in a subsurface wetland, after which the treated water will be used for <br />irrigation of native tree groves introduced specifically for this purpose. This process will be low <br />maintenance and monitored to ensure quality control. <br />Concurrent with technological explorations has been the search for suitable sites. This is a <br />complex process. There are several factors that need to be considered, such as potential <br />impacts to significant archaeological and cultural resources, soil quality, the presence of <br />drinking water wells, and other environmental factors. Location also impacts ratepayers. Long <br />transmission distance and the need to pump wastewater uphill for treatment can impose <br />significant costs. <br />Public input is factored into project planning, including site selection. DEM recently started <br />extensive community outreach programs in Nāālehu ‛(and Pāhala) to share current project <br />information, answer questions, and listen to people’s reactions. In these outreach activities, <br />the project team continually stresses that it is early in the formal review process. Specifics <br />about technology and sites are not finalized. Required environmental studies have not yet <br />been completed, and DEM Director William Kucharski stresses that: “Preliminary designs for <br />these potential sites were prepared to elicit comments, commence dialogue and satisfy <br />obligations in the EPA Administrative Order and Consent.” <br />Interviews and talk story sessions were held in Nāālehu in early April. About a hundred people ‛ <br />participated. They expressed strong concerns about the site that was presented at these <br />gatherings. To date, over 30 sites have been evaluated and the site selection process <br />continues. “No property may be purchased before an Environmental Assessment / Impact <br />Statement has been fully completed,” Director Kucharski said. The EA/EIS process provides <br />opportunities for community review and comments. A proposed final draft EA has not yet been <br />published for the Nāālehu‛ project. <br />DEM will conduct a second round of community outreach as the Department prepares and <br />finalizes the required environmental studies. Mahalo for your continued interest and patience as <br />DEM explores the best solutions to meet the wastewater needs of the Nāālehu‛ community. <br />For further information, please contact Rana Rodillas at (808) 961-8615. <br />