Inconvenient But Vital Investment

The City and County of Honolulu recently announced that it is launching a multimillion-dollar sewage construction project along a length of Kuhio Avenue.

The project, which begins in March, will take well over a year to complete and bring traffic congestion, the smell of sewage, construction noise, night work and other inconveniences to residents, visitors and workers in the heart of Waikiki. The city is using a technology that minimizes the open-trench methods of traditional sewer pipe work, but the work will still bring disruptions for those of us who live and work in the area.

While such work is never without its headaches and complaints, it is also absolutely vital to our quality of life.

When I campaigned for Honolulu mayor in 2004, I stated publicly that one of my greatest fears was a major sewage spill in Waikiki. That statement had been prompted by my experience on the Honolulu City Council, where we knew that the city had been neglecting our sewage infrastructure, was raiding the sewer fund, and was reluctant to replenish that fund by raising sewer fees. The city also was facing the terms of a federal consent decree that would mandate a multibillion-dollar commitment to fixing the wastewater system.

While we promptly began directing millions of dollars to sewer improvements when I took office, the pace of construction could not keep up with all the work that was necessary. My fear came to pass when a sewer main in the heart of Waikiki broke. Faced with allowing the sewage to continue to flow, or with closing the system and backing up sewers in homes, businesses and hotels across a wide swath of urban Honolulu, we let the raw sewage flow into the Ala Wai, all 48 million gallons of it.

I vowed then that no future mayor or City Council would face a similar crisis. We had earlier taken the painful step of raising sewer fees and concurrently promised that those fees would be used exclusively for sewer work. We launched a multibillion-dollar capital improvement program that involved repairing or replacing aging sewer pipes and mains across Oahu and increasing the capacity of our wastewater treatment plants. And we worked hard and diligently to bring about a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency on our decadeslong dispute over wastewater issues.

The continuation of that work by the present city administration is still evident. That large, black sewer pipe along the Ala Wai Canal is one indication that work is ongoing. The city has multiple projects in the Waikiki area as well as construction across the island.

This Kuhio Avenue work is just the latest in what is an ongoing, systematic approach to investing in our public works. Like our roads, sidewalks, parks, buildings and other public facilities, the repair and maintenance of our sewage infrastructure are essential to our economy and quality of life.

Yes, the Kuhio Avenue sewer work will inconvenience us. Yes, people will complain. But the consequences of failing to complete the work are far more onerous. Quite simply, the longer we delay, the more we’re going to pay.


Ronald Casallo

Position: Service Express Luggage Attendant
Location: Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Kaanapali

Selected as the Bell/Valet Person of the Year in the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association’s 2012 Na Po’e Pa’ahana awards program, Ronald Casallo is the embodiment of excellence in his profession and the visitor industry.

In his field, Ronald is the Westin Maui’s only certified trainer for new hires, and his passion for the job has proven contagious to the fledgling workers as they have become invaluable assets. He continually develops new ideas to improve service, and stands ready to help his team at a moment’s notice. But it is in his attention to detail and relationships with guests that he shines. In one gesture, Ronald helped a grieving spouse, who was a frequent guest, deal with the loss of her husband by taking her and her children out in his own boat to spread the ashes his only reward was their gratitude. He returned to that spot later to take a photo as a memento for this family, for which the family was moved to call and thank him profusely.

Ronald Casallo is active in the community, volunteering with his sons’ Cub Scouts and assisting in martial arts instruction.