Sewage from the Animal Quarantine Station is pouring into Halawa Stream, and it’s been going on for weeks.
It’s not clear how much has been spilled, but officials tell us an electrical problem at the quarantine station is to blame.
We wanted to know why it’s been happening for so long, and what’s being done to fix the problem.
The state Department of Health is now investigating, and that could lead to fines for another state agency, the Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of the station.
“At a minimum, based on observations, it has been going on for two to three weeks,” said Stuart Yamada from the DOH’s Clean Water Branch.
He says workers from the U.S. Geological Survey were at Halawa Stream when they noticed the problem.
“They noticed a stink sewage-like odor,” Yamada said. “They actually identified the pipe that it was coming from.”
But Yamada says the source was not identified until Friday, and that’s when the state and city were notified. As far as the amount, Yamada estimates thousands of gallons.
“The observation was approximately 30 gallons per minute, so not exactly a small flow. I don’t believe it’s continuous, but still there’s no telling how often this was going on,” Yamada said.
We went to the Animal Quarantine Station to get some answers. Department of Agriculture chairman Scott Enright says because of electrical problems, the sewage pumps were not working properly.
“There was an overflow from the storage,” he said.
“If it was working properly, where would it go?” KHON2 asked.
“It goes into a force main and into the county’s facilities,” Enright said.
We looked into state procurement records and learned that the state had asked for money back in June to get the electrical system fixed, and feared that a sewage spill could occur.
Enright says utility lines were knocked down a few weeks ago, which made the situation worse.
“We had a contractor who was actively working on it and thought the system was going to hold until we got the electrical contractor done,” he said.
“You felt that it would still handle the amount that you’re doing now?” KHON2 asked.
“The contractor that was maintaining it for the department, that was their opinion, so we’re going with our contractor’s opinion,” Enright said.
An opinion that was apparently wrong and could mean fines for the state.
“Clearly there’s the potential for investigation and potential for enforcement action to be taken,” Yamada said.
The health department is taking water samples and putting warning signs by the stream.
The maximum penalty is up to $25,000 per violation per day.