Kealakehe WWTP needs upgrade, sludge removal


The Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant is in need of $12 million to upgrade the North Kona facility’s aeration system and remove sludge from treatment lagoons.

The plant’s aeration upgrade project will restore the facility’s treatment capacity to its intended 5.1 million gallons per day; ensure compliance with an existing variance allowing the discharge of suspended solids; allow future upgrades to provide water that can be used for irrigation in public areas; and reduce electricity costs, according to the Department of Environmental Management. The sludge removal project is required to maintain and upgrade the plant and is integral to the aeration system’s performance.

The department anticipates the project, for which design work is nearly complete, could get under way in mid-2013, should the Hawaii County Council authorize Mayor Billy Kenoi to enter an agreement with the Department of Health for a State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund loan.

“In order to serve the growing population of West Hawaii, the Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant Aeration Upgrade is necessary,” the department’s request for Hawaii County Council action reads.

The loan request, contained in a bill submitted by Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, goes before the council’s Finance Committee during its monthly meeting slated for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in Hilo. The bill also seeks approval for the issuance of matching general obligation bonds to pay off the loan and interest.

If given a positive recommendation, the bill goes before the full council for consideration about two weeks later.

The request allows the county to take advantage of lower interest rates offered by the state’s loan program versus issuing bonds, according to the department. In 2009, the council approved bonds in the amount of $10 million for the project — of which $7 million would have been spent on the aeration upgrade. The projects were also included in Kenoi’s December 2008 list of projects requesting federal stimulus funds, but did not receive funding.

According to the stimulus request, the aeration upgrade in conjunction with accumulated sludge removal is needed to restore the plant, which is currently operating at 1.5 million gallons per day, to its design capacity of 5.1 million gallons per day. That will help accommodate future increased discharge at the facility prompted by closures of cesspools.

Calls to the department’s Acting Deputy Director, Dora Beck, for further information on the projects were not returned as of press time. Lyle Hirota, the department’s Wastewater Division deputy chief, was out of the office.

The $42 million wastewater treatment plant, located makai of Queen Kaahumanu Highway near Hale Makai Place, opened in mid-1993. Original plans called for effluent to be treated there and reused for irrigating the area.