Corals love sewage!

This the a bit different from the Off Deadline column in today’s print edition. The editors took out the joke about vitamin C, and I’ve put it back in.

Psst! Wanna know a secret? The environmentalists don’t want you to hear this, but corals eat sewage. Really. They love the stuff. The Maui Wastewater Working Group held 13 meetings to convict treated sewage put down injection wells of killing reefs. It’s too bad they didn’t take a field trip to the Central Laboratory at the Kihei Wastewater Treatment Plant to see some effluent in action. Such visits are discouraged by the health monitors, but my wife does the testing and I’ve watched her. There are several tests, but the relevant one for injection wells puts a sample of treated wastewater – the PC name for sewage – through a centrifuge, which deposits whatever sewage is left on circles of glistening white filter paper. Filter is the key word here. Corals (and marine worms and lots of other reef critters) are filter feeders. The Kihei and Lahaina plants make R1 effluent, the good stuff, while Kahului makes R2, not as clean. Usually, when the plant is functioning well (which is most of the time), on most of the discs I cannot tell any difference between the clean and the sampled filter paper. On a few, there may be the faintest brown tinge. It takes a magnifying glass to tell sometimes.