Sewage spill prompts clo­sure of Hawaii beach

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Stretches of Waikiki’s white sands and blue wa­ters were de­serted Tues­day af­ter of­fi­cials warned that heavy rains trig­gered a 1.9- mil­lion- liter sewage spill near Hawaii’s world-fa­mous tourist dis­trict.

Still, dozens of tourists waded into the wa­ter, and young par­ents car­ried their tod­dlers into the ocean, ig­nor­ing the warn­ing signs about un­safe wa­ter.

Car­men An­taky went swimming in Waikiki with her friend Sloan Hill-Lind­say on Tues­day. “I guess a lot of peo­ple are freaked out about it. We still jumped in,” An­taky said.

They said they go in the wa­ter ev­ery day and were will­ing to take their chances. “We’re also from L.A., where it’s pretty pol­luted any­ways,” Hill-Lind­say added.

The heavy rains over­whelmed the sewage sys­tem Mon­day morn­ing, caus­ing 500,000 gal­lons of waste­water to spew from man­holes, said Lori Kahik­ina, Honolulu’s di­rec­tor of en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices. “Now’s not the time to go swimming,” she told re­porters on Mon­day.

Life­guards gave ver­bal warn­ings that the wa­ter was pol­luted, but they do not have en­force­ment pow­ers so all they could do was warn visi­tors, of­fi­cials said.

Peter Parhar, from Van­cou­ver, Bri­tish Columbia, who was also on Waikiki Beach Tues­day, said the in­fra­struc­ture should be im­proved and he was con­cerned about the city’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion of the is­sue.

“More should be done to in­form the beach pa­trons of the risks of be­ing in the wa­ter,” Parhar said. “For the tourist seg­ment that isn’t English-speak­ing, they have no idea what’s go­ing on and they’re carry- ing lit­tle in­fants into the wa­ter.”

The city is ad­vis­ing peo­ple to avoid a 6.4-kilo­me­ter (4 miles) stretch of wa­ter­front. Sewage came out of man­holes at Ala Moana Beach Park, on a street fronting a shop­ping mall at the edge of Waikiki and a pump­ing sta­tion. The park is closed, and Honolulu po­lice were keep­ing peo­ple away.

Waikiki was not the only area of Oahu that was af­fected by an over­flow of waste­water. The state Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices said that Kailua, Ka­neohe and Kala­ni­anaole High­way in Aina Hina also ex­pe­ri­enced over­flow­ing sewer sys­tems. The Depart­ment of Health is­sued warn­ings for peo­ple to stay out of the wa­ter in all af­fected ar­eas, in­clud­ing Ka­neohe and Ma­mala bays.

Shayne En­right, a spokes­woman for the city’s Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices, cau­tioned that the ocean was dan­ger­ous. “We don’t know right now what is in the wa­ter. You could get a se­ri­ous in­fec­tion, get ex­tremely sick or even worse,” she said.

Kahik­ina said the storm wa­ter en­tered the sewage sys­tem as leaves and de­bris clogged the storm drains. Some wit­nesses re­ported peo­ple were il­le­gally open­ing man­hole cov­ers to let the storm wa­ter drain into the sewage sys­tem, even though sewage pipes and pumps aren’t de­signed to han­dle that vol­ume of liq­uid, she said.

In 2006, the city tem­po­rar­ily closed Waikiki’s beaches af­ter 182 mil­lion liters of raw sewage poured into the Ala Wai Canal bor­der­ing the area’s ho­tels and con­do­mini­ums. That spill oc­curred af­ter a sewage line rup­tured fol­low­ing weeks of heavy rains, forc­ing the city to di­vert waste­water into the canal.

The en­tire state re­mained un­der a flash-flood watch again Tues­day, with more rain ex­pected.

A new trop­i­cal storm, Ig­na­cio, formed east of the Hawai­ian Is­lands on Tues­day and is forecast to be­come a hur­ri­cane by Thurs­day, Cen­tral Pa­cific Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Chevy Che­va­lier said. “It’s an above-av­er­age year al­ready, and we’re still just in Au­gust,” he added.

There have been 17 storms so far this year in the Pa­cific, 12 of which reached hur­ri­cane sta­tus, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Na­tional Weather Ser­vice. Six of those storms reached su­per-typhoon sta­tus, which means they had max­i­mum sus­tained winds over 240 kph (150 mph).

Although it’s too early to pre­dict, Ig­na­cio’s cur­rent path could take it near or over the is­lands, Che­va­lier said.

AP

Two chil­dren vis­it­ing from China play in the sand on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, Tues­day, Aug. 25. Most of the famed beach was closed af­ter heavy rains trig­gered an al­most 2-mil­lion-liter sewage spill near Hawaii’s world-fa­mous tourist dis­trict, of­fi­cials said.

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