Navy agrees to upgrade Pearl Harbor-Hickam wastewater treatment plant following discovery of toxic pollutants

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Corroded center baffle on secondary clarifier. Photograph by K. Kirkeby.

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a Federal Facility Compliance Agreement (FFCA) with the US Navy after several problems were apparently found with the wastewater treatment plant on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The EPA found that the plant, which usually treats domestic and industrial wastewater, has exceeded its discharge limits for cadmium, zinc, oil and grease, pH and total effluent toxicity.

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“The Navy’s lack of proper operation and maintenance of the treatment plant has led to excessive toxic pollution discharges into Pearl Harbor and unacceptable worker safety risks,” said Amy Miller, EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Director of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is pleased with the Navy’s commitment to improving wastewater infrastructure and protection of coastal waters.”

The plant provides service to upwards of 40,000 people.

In addition to the high toxicity levels, the EPA claims that the plant has had numerous operation and maintenance violations, including algae growth, warped and disconnected parts, cracked concrete tanks and severely corroded equipment.

Under the agreement, the Navy is required to replace, repair or refurbish the plant’s three primary clarifiers, five of the six secondary clarifiers, and the effluent pump station by December 31, 2024.

The EPA said the Navy will also have to develop a plan to prevent and respond to potential infrastructure failures at the plant.

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