CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Anne Carroll, above, of Canada had to sit on the beach fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village yesterday after sewage from the Ala Wai contaminated popular swimming and surfing areas.
48 million gallons spill in 6-day sewer break
Officials urge people to remain clear of polluted ocean waters
A total of 48 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into the Ala Wai Canal during the six-day spill that is apparently the city's worst ever, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday.
The amount is more than double the estimate of more than 20 million gallons cited Wednesday by city Environmental Services Director Eric Takamura.
"I want to say again that the city had no other choice," Hannemann said of the diversion of sewage from a 42-inch main into the Ala Wai Canal from last Friday until repairs were completed Wednesday.
"Had we not done that as our outlet, as our release, the negative impact from having homes, businesses, restaurants and hotels with waste water backed up into those areas would have been catastrophic and certainly devastating," Hannemann said.
The mayor urged residents and visitors to heed signs warning against swimming and fishing in polluted waters. Those remain posted at Duke Kahanamoku and Fort DeRussy beaches (fronting the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Hale Koa hotels) and along the Ala Wai Canal and Ala Wai Boat Harbor -- now in Japanese as well as English.
"I can't stress that enough," Hannemann said, adding that the state Department of Health decides when beaches are closed and when they are reopened.
Watson Okubo, head of state Health Department water quality monitoring, told the Star-Bulletin yesterday that a good flushing with rain, followed by some days of bacteria-killing sunlight, would greatly help the areas affected by the pollution. But he refused to project how soon the beaches might reopen.
Both the state and city will continue to monitor bacteria levels daily, officials said.
Okubo said the Health Department was "on the verge" of posting warning signs at Ala Moana Beach Park based on Tuesday samples. But the bacteria numbers went down in the sample taken Wednesday, so it remains open.
Rain most of yesterday made the job of keeping people out of the ocean at Duke Kahanamoku and Fort DeRussy beaches easier than if things had been sunny, two city environmental services engineers said late yesterday afternoon.
The engineers tried unsuccessfully to talk brothers Matt, 17, and Mario Marcus, 16, and their friend Sean Herndon, 15, from catching some waves at the Kaisers surf spot -- one of four surf spots near the mouth of the Ala Wai Boat Harbor that had high bacteria counts on Tuesday.
The youths instead took the counsel of longtime surfer J.R., whom they called "the mayor," that he had been surfing earlier and the water was not bad. J.R., who refused to give his last name, left the boys some soap to use when they showered off.
Meanwhile, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village yesterday, hotel staffers were giving guests alternatives to beach activities, including board games and free movies.
Canadian vacationers Dave and Kathy Hrenewich and their daughter Emily said they were trying to make the best of a rainy vacation.
"We're a little disappointed," Dave Hrenewich said yesterday as he played checkers with Emily. "But you go on a holiday and you take what you get" as far as weather, he said.
Chicago residents John and Toya Napoleoni and their sons Ochir, 12, and Edward, 6, were playing Monopoly and waiting for the 7 p.m. showing of the movie "The Pacifier."
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Potholes, like this one by the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor that has its own cone, are getting larger and deeper.
They had had a good day at the Waikiki Aquarium where the boys favored the jellyfish, but could not deny that they all were hoping for sunny days with no sewage in the water.
City and state environmental officials have been in San Francisco this week for scheduled meetings with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding the city's compliance with EPA rules.
But government officials would not comment in detail about the meetings this week -- or about potential effects of the Ala Wai spill on the city's record.
"The only comment we can make is that the EPA is currently working with the state of Hawaii to obtain factual information regarding the spill and that we will determine an appropriate course of action," JoAnn Cola, an EPA clean-water compliance engineer, said yesterday in an e-mail to the Star-Bulletin.
The incident is "a horrible blow to the visitor industry, obviously, to have raw sewage running through the canal and into the ocean," Gov. Linda Lingle said, "but it's also a blow to those of us who live here."
She added, "It's not something anybody wants to see happen, but it appears to me the city is moving rapidly to remedy this problem."
Star-Bulletin reporter B.J. Reyes contributed to this report.