CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Eric Takamura, Department of Environmental Services director, took a look yesterday at repairs being done at the Kaiolu Street sewer break near the Ala Wai Canal.
Days of rain leave Ala Wai awash in sewage
Millions of gallons gush from a pipe that could take days to fix
As much as 10 million gallons of raw sewage has been dumped into the Ala Wai Canal since Friday and city officials say it could be a week before the spill stops.
The sewage was purposely diverted to the Ala Wai after Friday's heavy rains apparently caused a 42-inch sewer line to rupture on Kaiolu Street in Waikiki. The amount of waste already released rivals the biggest sewage spills the city has ever seen.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann, speaking at a press conference at Kaiolu Street yesterday, said diverting sewage into the canal was unavoidable.
"We needed an outlet (for the sewage) and the Ala Wai was the most convenient outlet for us," he said.
"The alternative would've been totally unacceptable -- that is homes, businesses, hotels, all being the recipient of the sewage that is now going into the Ala Wai," Hannemann said.
He acknowledged the inconvenience of the Waikiki spill to residents and visitors alike.
"This is the heartland of our visitor industry." he added.
Eric Takamura, director of the city Department of Environmental Services, said at least 5 million gallons of sewage had flowed into the canal and he speculated the number could be higher than 10 million. By comparison, Honolulu county had nine major sewage spills totaling 7.8 million gallons in 2003, according to state Department of Health records.
Crews have been working around-the-clock on the broken pipe since the break, Takamura said.
"The connection between two pipes is what deteriorated," Takamura said at the press briefing fronting the Beach Walk Wastewater Pump Station on Kaiolu Street.
He estimated that repair work could last until Friday, as workers attempt to tape up the pipe with hydraulic cement and possibly fiberglass, and pour a "concrete jacket" over the affected area.
But if that method is unsuccessful, he said, crew members will be forced to cut the pipe, install new pipe and weld it together, which could take another three days, taking the work into next week.
Takamura attributed the rupture to the heavy rain, aged pipes and the continual strain on the areas' pump stations.
About 15 million gallons of sewage flows at the Beach Walk Wastewater Pump Station daily, Takamura said. The station's pumps were shut off when the sewage spill was reported.
Other pump stations in the area are handling some of the sewage that normally goes through the Beach Walk station, which serves Waikiki and some mauka areas above the Ala Wai Canal.
Hannemann described the sewer line rupture as the "most challenging main break" in years.
The design of the sewer line, which was built in 1964, underground utilities and heavy rains are contributing to the challenge of fixing the main, he said.
City workers, along with contractors from Goodfellow Brothers, Inc. and Sea Engineering Inc., received a small break from the heavy rain yesterday as they worked on the sewer line.
Meanwhile, the sewage is flowing out of the canal, into the ocean, and currents are taking it out toward Honolulu Airport, according to Takamura.
Department of Environmental Services officials will continue to collect water samples and monitor nearby beaches in Waikiki and off Ala Moana Beach Park and Ala Wai Yacht Harbor today.
Only one surfer was observed catching waves at a surf spot called In-Betweens, off the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Warning signs were also posted at the lagoon at Magic Island and a stone wall that leads to the ocean at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor.
Darrah Hokama, a junior at Castle High School, arrived at a parking lot fronting In-Betweens hoping to go surfing with her three friends. But the sewage spill prompted Hokama and her friends head out for lunch instead.
Hokama said yesterday was the first day of her spring break. "It's such a bummer," she said.