Replacing an aging water/sewer system
On time and on budget
“For too many community needs in Honolulu – especially infrastructural needs – our leaders have “kicked the can down the road” for another year, another election, another administration or, worst of all, another generation. But the endless delays have to stop. We must address the critical needs for improvements for our sewerage, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
Fortunately, the can-kicking is now being stopped on our aging sewer system.
As a result of tough negotiations with the US EPA while I was Managing Director of Honolulu, the City entered into a consent decree under which we will convert the Sand Island and Honouliuli treatment facilities to full secondary treatment by 2035. The 25-year project will require building state-of-the-art deep gravity flow tunnels, new force main pumping, upgrades to the treatment plants, and so forth. After long, but reasonable discussions with the city council, they unanimously approved the decree.
This is a huge project and it must be managed carefully: $3.4 billion to upgrade the collection system – the sewers, pipes, pumping stations, etc. – and $1.7 billion to upgrade the treatment plants.
Per federal law, City ordinance and the consent decree, the funding for this will come from sewer fee increases over the next five years. Real property taxes are not impacted by these improvements.
As Mayor, one of the things I will also do is appropriately designate funds for a second digester at the Sand Island Treatment Plant. This second digester will deal directly with overcapacity issues.
The work on the sewer upgrades is now progressing on schedule and on budget; as called for by the consent decree. Bonds have been issued for the sewer upgrades and have received a rating from Fitch of AA, which we believe indicates that the project is being managed in a fiscally responsible way. But the Mayor and Administration have to keep on top of this all to stay on schedule. It won’t happen on auto-pilot.
Sewers are just one of the major infrastructural challenges Honolulu faces. Our next Mayor must be ready, willing and able to dig deep into all of them – water lines, road repaving, bridge repairs, street lighting, and much more – to start making immediate and lasting improvements. The status quo – and the ways of the past – just are no longer good enough for our 21st Century Honolulu.”
Q&A — SEWER SYSTEM IMPROVEMENTS
1. How big is the project?
Construction over 25 years, costing $5.1 billion:
$3.4 billion to upgrade the collection system – the sewers, pipes, pumping stations, etc.
$1.7 billion to upgrade the treatment plants
2. Why do our fees have to go up?
The US Environmental Protection Agency requires that the municipality collect fees from customers that cover the “ costs of operation and maintenance (including replacement).” The City charges sewer fees that comply with this federal requirement, and has done so since 1979.
3. How much will my sewer fees increase?
Fees will increase by approximately 4.0% per year until 2015, 5% in 2016 and 8% in 2017.
4. Where are we on meeting the decree?
The work on the sewer upgrades is progressing on schedule. The number of miles of sewer pipe that have been replaced or refurbished is consistent with the timeline of the consent decree
The consent decree provides that, the City will repair 63 miles through June 2013 and 11.5 miles per year thereafter. The City has met the milestones for the total number of miles of sewer lines and also has 12 miles “banked” to be applied in future years:
FY08 = 3.7 miles
FY09 = 17.5 miles
FY10 = 14.6 miles
FY11 = 16.1 miles
FY12 = 10.7 miles
The cost per mile to reconstruct sewer lines is $2.8M to $5.6M; the cost per mile to re-line existing pipes (called “cured in place pipe”) is $450,000; well within the cost estimates of the City. Bonds are being issued for the sewer upgrades and have received a rating from Fitch of AA, which reflects that the project is affordable and the cost manageable.
5. Will property taxes be affected in order to pay for the sewerage improvements?
Property taxes will NOT be raised in order to pay for the improvements.