Bypass line let city dodge another sewage spill
An emergency bypass line prevented a large-scale sewage spill in Waikiki.
WHEN the city installed a sewage bypass line in Waikiki earlier this year, it was done to avert exactly the kind of emergency that took place Tuesday.
Though between 500 and 800 gallons of raw sewage flowed into the Ala Wai Canal, the amount was small compared to the more than 48 million gallons that spilled into the waterway in March. Another broad contamination of beaches would not have been good for Hawaii's tourist haven.
Nor will it be good for residents of East Honolulu if a stop-gap line there isn't replaced as quickly as possible. The pipe, running above ground along the median of Kalanianaole Highway, is an accident waiting to happen. It is a relief that the city last week reached an agreement with a shopping center to use part of its parking lot as a construction baseyard so work can continue.
The smaller spill in Waikiki occurred because a shut-off valve was inadvertently left open during repairs of a crack in the pressurized main that empties sewage from the district's hotels and residences.
A segment of the line ruptured during heavy rains in March, causing the massive spill that tainted the area's beaches and surf spots as well as the canal. The city, which had been warned in previous years that the force main was in bad shape, had to scramble to put in the bypass, even as some people complained about lost parking spaces along the Ala Wai and the unsightly black pipe, most of which eventually was submerged in the canal.
But the work was well worth the effort when a yard-long crack was found in the 42-year-old concrete line. Sewage was funneled through the bypass, according to plan, and a crisis was headed off.
Miles of Honolulu's aging sewer system are under stress due to long-postponed repairs and maintenance. Among the most in need is the one in East Honolulu, which broke three times last year, requiring the temporary pipe that's now fixed between Kalanianaole's six traffic lanes.
Because the area is densely populated, the city had no space to store and stage drilling equipment for the new main. A dispute with the owner of the Niu Valley Shopping Center over liability insurance stalled work for three months.
Now that the matter has been settled, the city expects construction to resume in January with scheduled completion next summer. Motorists will have to put up with traffic disruptions, but the sooner the exposed sewer line is removed and the new main installed, the better.
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