Despite Sewer Work, Storms Still Cause Spills

Katherine Poythress

After 40 straight days of rain, Honolulu city officials elected in 2006 to dump nearly 50 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Ala Wai Canal.

Eventually, after the beaches were cleaned and pipes repaired, the city settled a series of lawsuits by signing a global consent decree to upgrade its sewage system over a period of decades.

But earlier this month, amid the second serious rain storm on Oahu in the last two winters, the system failed again, with three separate sewer overflows in just two days. An estimated 51,000 gallons of combined storm water and raw wastewater ran into a Windward Oahu stream on March 5, then at least 10,000 gallons into Palolo Stream and more than 30,000 gallons into Wailupe Stream the following morning.

Weren't the consent decree and the work the city's done to comply with the terms of the deal supposed to stop these types of spills?

"We're supposed to eventually avoid these," Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger said when Civil Beat asked about the spills outside of a Honolulu City Council budget hearing. "It was a lot of rain, it was a lot of rain."

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