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A Pollution Solution

Did you know that rainwater is the leading cause of water pollution in Hawaii? Quality Pumping and Maintenance knows this and they expect profits to come raining down.

Catastrophic events like sewage and oil spills and other random disasters are often thought of as the leading causes of water pollution in Hawaii. In actuality, however, it’s rainwater. Or rather, the pollutants that the occasional downpour washes off roads, parking lots, rooftops and other impermeable surfaces.

Otherwise known as nonpoint source pollution, the detrimental runoff occurs when water runs over land, picks up pollutants, and deposits them in surface waters or introduces them into the groundwater.

In 1990 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began issuing permits through the State Department of Health, which requires the prevention and reduction of nonpoint source pollution. The permits require all municipalities serving populations of 100,000 or more, as well as industrial and commercial operations with private drain connections, to take responsibility for polluted discharge.

Drain brain: Quality Pumping and Maintenance’s Dennis Wong believes new environmental rules will lead to big profits.

Yet while permits remain readily available, what yellow page exactly, does one flip to in order to locate a nonpoint-source-pollution-picker-upper?

“Until recently, there have been no practical methods to solve this problem,” says Dennis Wong, president of Quality Pumping and Maintenance. The company was created last November as the result of a merger between Biocare and Ekahi Services—two companies that specialized in the separation of non-hazardous liquid waste—specifically to do runoff collection. Biocare revenues prior to the merger were roughly $700,000 annually, but Wong predicts an increase in sales of at least 42 percent this year, with revenues just tipping the million-dollar mark. He says the increase will be the result of both the existing rules and some new ones that the EPA will establish effective March 10, 2003. These will require all municipalities with populations smaller than 100,000 and all construction sites disturbing between one to five acres with nonpoint source pollution, to have municipal storm water permits.

“In order to comply with these new rules, companies will have to install some sort of filter method or trap to keep runoff out of the storm drain,” says Wong.

Wong says the process is not labor-intensive at all. Stainless steel filters are installed in storm drains or specially designed catchment drains for approximately $400 to $800. It then costs around $40 to change each filter unit, which, according to Wong, must be done after each rainfall of at least three inches or more. Wong has been pitching his services to private companies with large parking lots and expects to pick up his first customer mid-year.

“Now that they’re tightening up the laws, people are realizing a need for these services,” says Wong.

There are hefty fines for illegal discharge of nonpoint source pollution. In addition to the $1,000 minimum and $25,000 maximum fines, violators may be additionally subject to State and Federal fines.

The City and County of Honolulu received its initial permit from the Department of Health in August 1994, which was recently reissued and will expire on Sept. 8, 2004. According to Gerald Takayesu, head of the Department of Environmental Services’ Storm Water Quality branch, the permit issued to the City and County of Honolulu details very specific requirements and provisions. Amongst other things, the city is responsible for installing storm drain filters, water quality monitoring, and even public awareness and environmental education.

“Since these services are so brand new, there’s really no real name for it just yet,” says Wong. “We haven’t given it much thought as far as how we’re going to be listed in the phone book.”

That’s easy: nonpoint-source-pollution-picker-upper.

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