Has Hawaii’s trash-burning incinerator also destroyed its water?

Written by Staff Writer

From CNN Toronto

The haphazard destruction of Honolulu’s infrastructure by the city’s 35-year-old trash incinerator likely contributed to its water crisis, according to a new study.

The cash-strapped city, which generated $35 million in revenues in 2016, “limited investment in infrastructure … in order to avoid major investment costs” over many years, the report from Honolulu’s Urban Mass Transit Authority says.

The Cook Islands building

That’s the key to understanding why Honolulu’s water has become polluted and undrinkable for many people, it says.

The report also states that “staffing-based reporting methods had resulted in inadequate system data requirements” from the City and County of Honolulu.

This resulted in some of the problems seen in the city’s water infrastructure.

“The Kewalo Dam Pump Station is very difficult to maintain because it is not designed to hold water for an extended time period,” the report says. “In order to start operations, a sewage spill must occur and an oxygen supply provided.”

The report said long-term investment in infrastructure, which could potentially be up to $11.2 billion, has been hampered by decisions made before 1999, before the incinerator was constructed.

Less to give

Many other cities — including London, Hong Kong and Boston — have created integrated systems. These systems use cities’ own water supplies to mix with water imported from other areas. This avoids the use of expensive chemicals.

In 2016, Honolulu’s water industry generated $2.7 million in gross receipts revenue, and $1.3 million in operating revenue, according to the report.

The island state of Hawaii, which sits in a halo of 50,000 jagged peaks and an ocean of warm, nutrient-rich water, is different to most places on Earth. For it, water is more precious than most — many of its residents live in leaky or flooded homes and use purified creek water.

In February, the latest in a string of leaks was found in the city’s water distribution system.

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