Something stinks in the Ala Wai
Forty-eight million gallons! That's a lot of anything liquid, but it's an especially staggering number when we are talking about untreated sewage flowing into the Ala Wai Canal.
The media reported that was the approximate amount of effluents that were pumped into the canal rather than be allowed to back up into the surrounding neighborhoods last week. And from a health and logistics standpoint, I'm sure it was a wise decision.
Still, I think we can all be very thankful the sewer main rupture occurred at a time when Mother Nature was, so to speak, flushing out the Ala Wai watershed with a record-breaking rainfall.
Just imagine what the effects of that much wastewater would have been had it been pumped into a warm, calm canal on a hot summer day. Both the canal and the yacht harbor would have resembled an open cesspool and the stench alone would have cleared Waikiki.
I also imagine it would have taken a good deal longer than a week or so for the bacteria count to drop to anything close to a safe level in the waterway or along the adjacent beaches.
The whys and hows of the sewer line rupture should be left to the engineers, but I think most of us would agree that many similar situations in Hawaii have been directly attributed to a lack of proper preventive maintenance.
All too often, repairs have been deferred to the point of collapse, as the condition of our Natatorium, public marinas, roadways, utility poles, and most recently dams will attest to.
Apparently, most of our bureaucrats and politicians consider total replacement, rather than ongoing upkeep, the best policy.
We must give an "attaboy" though to the Ala Wai harbormaster's office for getting the trash trap under the Ala Moana Bridge emptied in a timely manner not once, but three times during our recent six-week deluge.
Those efforts kept the trash trap operational and kept literally tons of trash-bergs from floating into the harbor and out to sea.
There was a bit of irony in the recent sewage spill for me as this week I had intended to write about a new state publication for boaters entitled, "Managing Boat Wastes."
But now, under the present conditions, trying to encourage recreational boaters to properly dispose of their onboard wastewater has somehow lost its urgency.
After all, in comparison, the combined capacity of every holding tank on every boat in the marina can't be more than a small fraction of the recent sewage inundation.
Nevertheless, the guide booklet does provide the latest advice about the proper disposal of a wide range of hazardous materials used aboard boats.
They include fuel, oil, solvents, batteries, paints, varnishes, and epoxies.
The booklet is a joint effort of the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant Program, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the Department of Health, and is available at any state harbormaster office for free.