Councilwoman: City promises improvements after sewage spill concerns

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Last month’s sewage spill near Ko Olina may have gone undetected for a full day before city officials responded.

That’s the latest information we’re getting despite the city’s efforts to withhold information to the public.

Honolulu city councilwoman Kymberly Pine spoke with city Director of Environmental Services Lori Kahikina about the spill.

Kahikina told Pine that because the spill happened in an undeveloped area, it might have been going on for up to 24 hours before city crews noticed it.

Pine says it was a productive conversation with the director. Improvements will be made, including providing more information to the public.

But so far, the city’s response to our questions for nearly a week now has been silence.

The latest information we received from the city is that more than 200,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled Nov. 30, which officials already knew the following day, but did not reveal until we pressed them after spotting city crews disinfecting the area five days later.

An email from a city spokesman said the trouble call for the spill came at 9:30 a.m. and crews arrived at 10 a.m. When we asked when the spill started, when it stopped, and how it was detected, the city didn’t answer.

“They estimated about 24 hours before it was discovered, but again, that’s just an estimation,” said Pine.

Pine also addressed the issue of revealing more information to the public and was told that the city will improve on that.

“Meaning they’ll have a better idea of how much was spilled and reveal it more immediately?” KHON2 asked.

“I think what they need to reveal to the public is the type of testing that they have to do before they make an estimation. Right now, it’s just kind of like silence, so you don’t know what’s going on and so they agreed that they would like to improve that media response,” she said.

If the Sand Island treatment plant monitors sewage spills, how could one go undetected for 24 hours? What type of detection systems are in place at the treatment plant and are there any plans to improve them? Those are some of the questions we’re asking the city and we have yet to get a response.

Our questions have been ignored since Friday when we started asking about a possible mix-up over which pump station was turned off during the spill, and if that could have led to more spillage. We called the mayor’s public information officer, Andrew Pereira, and got the same non-response.

Pine is optimistic though, and got assurance from the city that the sewage pipes in that area will be replaced.

“I want to thank Channel 2 for really getting on this issue because it really forced leaders to make changes, and I’m very happy for my community that they will get new infrastructure,” she said.

More information will be revealed in the spill report submitted to the state health department. It’s normally required five days after the spill, but the city has asked for an extension.

We will let you know when it’s submitted.

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