When it rains, sewage pours
Sewage spills have fouled the ocean along Oahu's Windward Coast.
WHEN the rains come, so do the sewage spills
, a twosome of unwanted abundance on Oahu that harms the ocean, threatens the health of humans and blemishes the image of Hawaii for tourists.
So often does the sequence occur that fouling of streams and near-shore waters is hardly a surprise anymore. In fact, officials and residents seem to expect it.
Officials say the spills that accompanied the heavy rain last week weren't caused by failure of pipes or facilities, but by storm water entering the sewage system. However, acknowledgment of the situation still leaves unanswered the question of whether the city and state are unable to solve the problem or consider polluting the ocean and streams and endangering people's health acceptable under the circumstances.
Windward Oahu had eight sewage spills that sent more than 178,000 gallons of contaminated flows into the ocean from Kaneohe Bay down the coastline to Waimanalo, into Enchanted Lake and onto streets and roads. About 100,000 gallons alone came from a pre-treatment facility at the Kaneohe sewage plant.
In a familiar routine, signs posted at beaches warned people to stay out of the water as bacteria levels rose to hundreds of times above safe levels. At midweek, one bacterial count at Kaneohe Bay measured a geometric mean of about 1,300 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of water, far above the state standard of seven units.
State health officials say pollution levels will drop to normal when sunny weather returns, but two years ago, when rainy weather triggered similar spills, contamination persisted for almost two weeks, discouraging tourists and residents from entering the ocean along the Windward Coast.
Both the city and the state, under scrutiny of federal authorities, have been working to improve the sewage system, but the spills have not abated. They have become an unfortunate and common companion to stormy weather.
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