Paddling groups to steer clear of Ala Wai
Oahu's two largest associations fear the water is still unsafe
Oahu's two largest canoe racing associations will not practice in the Ala Wai Canal this year because of lingering worries about bacteria after a 48 million-gallon sewage spill in March.
Both Oahu Hawaiian canoe racing associations decided to "stand united" on the issue, said Hannie Anderson, president of the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, and Tamry Young, president of Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa'a.
Together the two associations represent about 5,000 paddlers of all ages, Anderson said.
One six-man crew of adult male paddlers with a single club might return to the Ala Wai to practice, Young said, but representatives of that club could not be reached for confirmation yesterday.
"I, as leader of Hui Wa'a, wouldn't even think to tell our clubs, 'You gotta go back,'" Young said. "I'd have to say it is an individual's choice."
Eleven association canoe clubs were displaced from the Ala Wai Canal and Magic Island after the March 24-29 spill from a ruptured sewer force main. The city released sewage into the canal because it had no backup for the broken line while it was being repaired. The alternative would have been sewage backing up in Waikiki buildings, city officials said.
Watson Okubo, head of water-quality monitoring at the state Health Department, told canoe association leaders last week that water quality in the Ala Wai is near pre-spill levels.
However, Okubo is not surprised that the clubs are choosing to stay away from their longtime practice venue, he said yesterday.
Enterococcus bacteria -- the state's official indicator of the likelihood of people getting sick from contact with water -- averaged 128 to 163 colony-forming units per test sample at two canal test sites the week of April 18-22, Okubo said. The state's standard for recreational waters is no more than 7 colony-forming units in a geometric mean of five separate samples.
Background pollution of the canal comes from runoff from Manoa and Palolo valleys, Okubo said.
Okubo had suggested that if canoe clubs were to resume practice in the Ala Wai, they should ensure that members rinse off after paddling, have first-aid kits for any wounds and report any illness to the Health Department.
But two clubs that practice on the Ala Wai do not have water hookups so members can rinse off after practice, Anderson said. Outrigger and Lokahi clubs "have tried for years to get water out there and been turned down by the Parks Department repeatedly," she said.
Meanwhile, family doctors advised some paddlers' mothers that the Ala Wai is unsafe "until city and state comes out forcibly and says it is safe," said Hiram Manoi Jr., head coach for the Kumulokahi-Elks club, which normally practices at Magic Island.
Even with practice currently at Kaimana Beach, youth attendance is less than half of normal, Manoi said.
Results of University of Hawaii testing in the Ala Wai Canal and harbor for the presence of the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus have not been released. The bacteria were among the contributing factors in the death of Oliver Johnson, who reportedly fell into Ala Wai Harbor shortly after the sewage spill.
In related news, city officials said yesterday that they are imposing traffic restrictions on Kaiolu Street in Waikiki, the site of the sewer main break. The restrictions, which include a 15 mph speed limit and a vehicle weight limit of 5 tons, are intended to minimize disturbances to the repaired sewer main under the street, city officials said.
Here are the results of water quality tests Monday for Waikiki beaches and the Ala Wai Canal, 39 days after the sewage spill. The state guideline for recreational water is a geometric mean of no more than 7 colony-forming units of enterococcus bacteria over five or more samples.
* Upstream of spill
units per sample
|McCully Street Bridge
|Ala Moana Boulevard bridge
|Ala Wai Harbor boat ramp
|Ala Moana Canoe ramp
|Magic Island Finger
|Magic Island Lagoon
|Hale Koa Hotel
|Queen's Surf Beach
** Spill site
Source: Hawaii Department of Health