Sewage spill fouls Waikiki Beach

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Friday, March 31, 2006

Signs were posted at various points along Waikiki Beach warning beachgoers to stay out of the water. Source: KeithH

More than 48 million gallons (180 million L) of untreated sewage that flowed into the ocean from a sewer spill on Friday, March 24, have forced city officials in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States, to post signs warning tourists on Waikiki Beach to stay out of the water.

A 42-inch pressurized sewer line in Waikiki cracked on Friday, March 24, sending untreated sewage into the Ala Wai Canal on the inland (mauka) side of Waikiki. Engineers believe that heavy rains since February 19 overwhelmed the sewer line, which was constructed in 1965.

City officials say that they had no alternative but to pump the raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal, which empties just west of Waikiki, to prevent the wastewater from backing up into homes and hotels. Repair crews worked around the clock to fix the sewer break. The spill was finally stopped on Thursday.

At first, tides and winds took the sewage spill out to sea, but southerly winds sent the sewage back toward Waikiki Beach, forcing city officials to take action. Signs were posted on beaches on the west side of Waikiki. Bacteria tests taken on the 29th showed levels of bacteria from three to sixty times acceptable levels.

Health officials will continue to test bacteria levels daily, but there is no estimate as to when the contamination will dissipate; warning signs may be in place for as long as several months.