HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials are stumped after large trash bags have been discovered floating in the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor since October 2021, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

Nearly five months later these bags continue to pollute the harbor and its trash catchment.

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On Thursday, Feb. 10, staff from an organization called 4ocean retrieved and disposed of eight waterlogged bags from the trap that weighed about 408 pounds altogether.

“They stink. And beyond the smell, it’s super hard to pull them up because they’re just full of water. So, before we figured out this par buckling method (nets and poles), we had been kind of having to rip them open and picking stuff up one piece at a time,” explained Kirsten Kelly of 4ocean.

DLNR officials stated many of the 4ocean crew had to walk away several times for fresh air while trying to get the bags because of the sickly stench.

According to their website, 4ocean is an organization that aims to help communities affected by plastic pollution and harmful debris in their ocean, rivers and coastlines. The DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation permitted them to remove these trash bags.

Jeanne Martin-Hopkins, a paddler for the Waikīkī Yacht Club, also found many black trash bags in the water while she walked up Maikiki Stream, which flows into the harbor.

“They’re just disgusting and foul. They are full of bad stuff…feminine products, stuff that pokes you through the bags. The fact that somebody is deliberately throwing these bags in the Ala Wai instead of disposing of them properly, you know, it just needs to stop.” 

Jeanne Martin-Hopkins, a paddler for the Waikīkī Yacht Club

She added that canoe clubs and yacht club staff tried to take these bags out of the water — at least 100 escaped the trap.

However, DLNR reported the Waikīkī Yacht Club’s general manager had to stop these efforts when a maintenance worker “developed a staph infection” most likely caused by handling the trash.

Officials remain in the dark regarding the origin of the bags, but all they know is that they come from somewhere upstream of the harbor.

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People who have information on this issue or see anyone dumping trash into Hawaii’s streams, lakes and/or the ocean should either call the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement hotline at 643-3567, report it on the DLNRTip app or call 911.