There were no environmental laws in the 1920s when the Ala Wai Canal was built. Dredging and filling destroyed vital wetlands but government officials were seeing only the future.

For decades, pollution has been building with each Hawaiian rainstorm. Runoff from the watershed areas of Makiki, Palolo and Manoa flows downhill, carrying contaminants and trash. Engineers decided not to open the eastern end of the canal into the ocean so the semi-closed system doesn’t flush itself out as originally planned.