Commercial technology for nutrient removal
It’s cheap to just dump it in a hole or is it?
As an environmental scientist of 30-plus years, it saddens me greatly to learn Mayor Michael Victorino has taken his Maui wastewater case to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is hoping the conservative court will rule it is not a Clean Water Act violation to dump volumes of nutrient-rich human wastewater down injection wells near the coast. UH hydrologists John F. Mink and L. Stephen Lau told us back in 2006 that all wastewater eventually ends up in the nearby sea.
It would be unlawful to build a pipeline to the shore and dump the wastewater there. Yet to drill a well and dump wastewater into it so it can find its way to the coast is OK.
There is a solution that does not get much attention. We have the commercial technology to remove most nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater. Then the wastewater will have less impact. Yes, it adds some cost. We excreted those nutrients and we need to mitigate the impact on our tropical waters.
It is the nature of tropical waters to be nutrient-limited. To add tons of nutrients over the years alters the ecology in detrimental ways. Better yet, create value by removing the outdated statues that limit home reuse of reclaimed water.
We can point to nearshore waters in many sites where the damage is pervasive. Our cheap disposal choices will continue to degrade our seas. Green slimy putrid waters will occur again, and the cheap disposal method will get rather costly to the economy of the islands.