Pollution hits boaters in the wallet
Blame it on the rain. While thanking the Ala Wai Harbor's state Boating Division for its quick action in having several tons of floating debris removed from the trash trap under the Ala Moana Bridge a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I would have more to say on another day.
So now after this week's recent rainstorms, it seems an appropriate time to return to the subject and reflect on the causes and effects of that harbor's unending plague of rain-induced trash-bergs.
I think most observers will concede that the trash trap functions reasonably well considering it can only capture whatever flows under just one of the three bridge spans over the canal. For reasons perhaps only a hydrologist might explain, the refuse floating down the Ala Wai usually flows along the Waikiki side and into the trap.
Once captured, the next critical step is for the harbormaster to have the debris removed before the trash floats out again with a change in the wind and tide.
As I've mentioned before, the Boating Special Fund pays the removal costs amounting to several thousand dollars per storm. So the obvious questions are: Where did all the trash come from and why should Hawaii's recreational boaters have to pick up the tab?
Like a river, the Ala Wai Canal has many origins; some are natural like the Manoa and Palolo streams, however the hundreds of manmade storm drains that flow from our urban streets and highways create the vast majority.
It's not surprising then that the contents of the trash trap is a rich mixture of natural materials such as grass cuttings, coconuts, palm fronds, branches and logs, as well as old tires, foam coolers, fast-food containers and plastic bottles.
Charging the harbor users to clean up this mess is akin to a high-rise condo owner asking his neighbors below to pay for the flood damage in their apartments from water that originated in his residence.
Wouldn't a better answer be for Honolulu to create a comprehensive street sweeping program? It might not eliminate the natural materials, but it should go a long way in reducing the amount of litterbug droppings that wash off our city streets every time it rains.
This idea isn't original; virtually every coastal community in California has certain hours of each week when streets are posted with no parking signs to allow street sweeping machines full access to the curb.
By comparison, it has been many years since the makai end of Ala Wai Blvd., and most likely every other street in Waikiki, has been treated to such a thorough cleansing, a fact that should come as some embarrassment to those in Honolulu Hale.
For some reason, catching pollution before it is washed or blown into our waterways has yet to be tried with any enthusiasm here even though Waikiki is considered our "economic engine."
Perhaps that time has come, but if not, how about the city council chipping in on the cleanup expense of the Ala Wai trash trap?