John Werrill's idea for keeping storm drains flowing is to catch street debris with retractable grids.

Building a
better ‘lint’ trap

Readers come clean about
how to keep road debris
out of storm drains

December's question was a tough poser because we were asking folks to out-think and out-design highway and traffic engineers, and that's going up against a mighty brain trust. These are the guys who installed speed bumps in Nuuanu to make speeders slow down, and when they did, the bumps were removed.

Here's the question:

"Those orange rolls that highway engineers have been shoving into storm drain openings -- there must be a more efficient or practical or attractive way to filter out road debris. These things are about as useful and pleasing to the eye as huge, discarded cigarette butts."

Regular contributor John Werrill began his reply by suggesting we go into a new line of work, but he did provide the nice piece of artwork above to illustrate his clamshell-like grate apparatus: "Esthetically more neat and tidy, with retractable, cast-iron, aluminum-coated grids for monthly ease of cleaning adherent sludge. Openings are 1 1/2-to-2 inches for heavy rainfall and capture of significant debris. Unfortunately, it's not user-friendly for people in wheelchairs, whom I would assume would seek alternate routes."

Star-Bulletin readers came up with several suggestions for replacing these unattractive but necessary storm drain filters.

Alvin Wong of Pearl City would rather start at the source: "The solution is simple -- start issuing citations to the litterbugs. You can find them at all left-hand traffic-light intersections, throwing out cigarette butts. The smokers are the major litterbugs, so make them clean it up or pay the fine. Being addicted to nicotine is not a crime, but littering is a crime. Sooner or later, smokers will have to pay the price to clean it up. The nonsmokers are sick and tired of seeing litter all over our streets."

If preventive law doesn't work -- ha ha! -- go for the high-tech solution:

"Why not a permanent metal grate that covers the bottom half of the opening, to filter out rubbish, that the street cleaners can sweep clear as they go by?" suggests Inga Park Okuna of Honolulu.

"Or are the rolls preventing liquids or dirt from going down the drains? If so, a grate wouldn't work and a removable length of Plexiglas that snaps into the opening, with ends that are flat against the curb for easy installation and removal, might be better. The middle section would be the length of storm drain and only go in about 2-3 inches to keep it from sliding out and down the street. If designed correctly, the pressure of the ends against the inside ends of the drain should hold it in place. Squeeze the ends toward the center to insert or remove.

"If it's too costly, get a length of hard plastic that is a foot longer than a storm drain. Glue on two pieces of plastic, one piece on each end of where the actual storm drain opening would be (61/2 inches in from the ends of the plastic), then pop that in place. The two pieces of plastic prevent the longer piece from being washed away. Stick one or two small triangles on the outside to prevent it from tipping forward (like the back of a stand-up picture frame). Don't make the triangles too big, or a cyclist riding too close to the curb might fall over it. Since it is clear, it is practically invisible and not an eyesore. Remove it when no longer needed."

Sounds like a high-school shop project to us. And then there's the guy who'd rather handle it all at the end of the system rather than at the beginning:

"Allow the trash to flow into the storm gutters and to the ocean end of the outlet drain, and filter it there," said Michael Nomura of Kailua. Kailua? Isn't that way-close to the ocean?


Next month's Brainstorm!

They don't make sewage pump stations like they used to. The century-old city station sits abandoned and dilapidated on Ala Moana Boulevard near Restaurant Row.

What should the city do with
the elegant old sewage pump station?

It's empty and fading, and now it's taking a beating from all the construction going on around it. The O.G. Traphagen-designed sewage pump station on Ala Moana Boulevard, more than a century old, is a monument to the glory days of municipal architecture, when city fathers took such pride in their community that even a humble sewage station became a landmark structure. Millions of tourists drive by it every year, and it's an embarrassing reminder of how poorly Honolulu treats its historic landmarks.

Over the years, dozens of uses and excuses and blue-sky speculations have been suggested for the striking structure. We've remarked on it before, to no avail. So what's happening with it? Near as we can tell, nothing. Nada. Goose eggs. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.

So we're asking you, Mr. and Mrs. Kimo Q. Publique, what should the city do with the elegant old pump building?

Send your ideas and solutions by Jan. 15 to:

Or mail them to:
c/o Nancy Christenson
500 Ala Moana
7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

c/o Nancy Christenson


E-mail to Editorial Editor


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