Another day, another spill

A commentary points out that the State of Hawaii is threatening to fine the city of Honolulu up to $3.5 million for more than 8 million gallons in raw sewage spills since 1996. The author goes on to point out the absurdity of this example of one level of government policing another. If this happened in the private sector it would be considered malfeasance and someone would be prosecuted and sent to jail. This, in fact, has happened with private sewage operators in the past. The whole story highlights the little-known fact that public sewer systems are much more likely to violate environmental standards than are privatized ones. Public systems just don’t have to face the music in the same way, so they are more lax, either due to budgeting decisions or bad management.