ML&P fined $230K for wastewater effluent violations

DOH issues penalties for Haliimaile plant

The state Department of Health has ordered Maui Land & Pineapple Co. to pay $230,000 in fines for 15 wastewater effluent violations at the Haliimaile wastewater treatment plant.

The department announced the notice of violation on Wednesday and also ordered the company to build a new wastewater treatment plant within two years. The existing plant will continue to operate until a new one is constructed.

“The treatment plant has been unable to comply with state requirements that prevent serious damage to our environment and protect our coastal waters and drinking water,” said Sina Pruder, chief of the department’s Wastewater Branch. “The department will continue to work with Maui Land & Pineapple to develop alternative wastewater treatment options to serve the community without compromising our precious natural resources.”

ML&P could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The current plant in Haliimaile includes two unlined waste stabilization ponds and three disposal leach fields. It serves 173 single-family homes in Haliimaile town, as well as the Haliimaile General Store and the Maui Pine baseyard.

ML&P’s operations came under scrutiny when the department conducted an inspection of the Haliimaile waste stabilization ponds on April 14, 2016. The department ended up issuing an informal notice of violation for 12 effluent violations that occurred from May 2015 to February 2016. The department did not impose any fines but ordered ML&P to correct the violations.

Some possible solutions included introducing hay to limit algae growth or consistent removal of sludge from the ponds. However, attempts to limit algae growth in one of the ponds did not work, and a sludge removal system installed in another pond did not stop the effluent violations, according to the notice of violation issued by the department.

On June 26, the department conducted another inspection and found that the wastewater treatment plant still exceeded effluent standards from June 2017 to May, resulting in 15 violations.

“A properly constructed, operated and maintained wastewater treatment plant would not have this many effluent violations,” officials with the Wastewater Branch said in an email on Wednesday.

Branch officials added that the wastewater may be infiltrating into the groundwater, which could increase the presence of nitrates and phosphates in the groundwater. However, they said that residents “should not be concerned because their drinking water is not being impacted.”

“The Haliimaile residents’ drinking water is from surface water and not groundwater,” branch officials said. “However, if new development is proposed downslope of the wastewater treatment plant, there could be a potential impact to the drinking water if wells are constructed.”

ML&P may request a hearing to contest the alleged violations and penalties.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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