Drain rules worth reviewing
Last Monday morning, as I walked past Kawaiahao Plaza on the corner of Kawaiahao and South streets, I noticed a maintenance person using a large squeegee to push water and a lot of debris toward the storm drain. It didn't seem as though he planned to gather up the leaves, but rather, he intended to stuff it down the drain. Isn't that what is causing the streets to flood?
Answer: It certainly seemed like a violation of the city's storm drain ordinance, but appearances, in this case, were deceiving.
Still, they were not particularly good in terms of public perception.
We passed your observations on to the city, where an investigator from the Department of Environmental Services' Storm Water Branch was assigned immediately to determine whether there was an illegal discharge into the storm drainage system, said Iwalani Sato, the city's Storm Water Quality outreach coordinator.
The investigator contacted Kamehameha Schools, owner of Kawaiahao Plaza. After reviewing the maintenance and disposal practices of the building's maintenance staff, the investigator "found no violation of an illegal discharge into the catch basin," Sato said.
The maintenance manager confirmed that workers used a grass blower and squeegee to direct debris into a catch basin. But he explained that the catch basin contained a curb inlet filter placed by the Honolulu Fire Department in response to a previous emergency involving a spill.
Sato said the filter is designed for curb inlets without grates where water flow is critical. It can handle higher volumes of water during wet weather and is designed to allow water to flow through while keeping out sediment, trash and debris, she said.
The maintenance staff then removed the yard waste before it headed into the drain system, according to the findings of the investigator.
Even though there was no violation, the investigator discussed the need to educate workers on "best management practices" in removing yard waste, Sato said.
That included removing the debris farther away from the catch basin, instead of in front of it and relying solely on the curb inlet filter to do its job, Sato said. The maintenance staff agreed to do that, she said.
In addition, because the property is in a high-traffic area, they were told they should be more sensitive to public perception of their maintenance practices to minimize polluted runoff, she said.
This is a good opportunity to remind readers that storm water and waste water travel through two completely separate systems. On Oahu, waste water is treated and goes through sewer lines, while rainwater is funneled through storm drains directly into streams and the ocean.
To comply with federal water pollution control programs, the city prohibits discharging any pollutant into any drainage facility which causes a pollution problem in state waters (see Section 14-12.23, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu).
Depending on the violation, violators can face fines of up to $25,000 per violation, per day.
Grass clippings and other natural debris not only can clog storm drains but also add organic material to the drainage system, Sato pointed out.
When it rains, large amounts of leaves, fruits and branches can clog drainage channels, she said, while excessive amounts can result in algal blooms that harm underwater plants and aquatic life.
If anyone witnesses an illegal discharge into a storm drain, or if it has already occurred, call the city's Environmental Concern Line, 768-3300, during normal business hours. That line handles calls regarding refuse, storm water or waste water.
For discharges into state storm drains, call either the Department of Transportation's Highways Division hotline, 831-6714, or the Department of Health's Clean Water Branch, 586-4309.
After normal business hours or if it's an emergency, call 911.
The city is continuing efforts to educate the public on the proper ways to dispose of various kinds of trash and debris, Sato said.
For green waste, options include "mulching the grass" back into yards, creating a composting area for grass clippings, or bagging the clippings and placing it at the curb for recycling collection.
People using grass or leaf blowers should direct the debris back into their yards, not onto the street, Sato said.
The bottom line, she said, is, "We need people to do the right thing, which, in this case, is proper disposal -- sweeping, picking it up and throwing it away."
For more information or to find out how to volunteer for various projects to keep the environment clean and healthy, go to www.cleanwaterhonolulu. com.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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