After seven years, the city of Honolulu is set to remove the large black sewage pipe that snakes along the bottom of the Ala Wai Canal and out toward the mouth of the boat harbor, adjacent to Waikiki’s famous beaches.

Workers hastily installed the emergency pipe, known as the “black noodle,” in 2006 after an old force main broke in Waikiki spewing gallons of raw, fetid sewage onto Kaiolu Street. Over the following six days, in violation of federal law, the city dumped 48 million gallons of untreated sewage into the canal — which flowed out into the ocean and polluted Waikiki beaches — in order to keep the waste from backing up into hotels, homes and businesses.

ala wai canal sewage pipe/ Caldwell

Sophie Cocke/ Civil Beat

The 5,135-foot sewage pipe that juts out of the water near community gardens on the mauka bank of the canal, has been a constant reminder of that environmental disaster. The sewage is linked to the death of one man, who fell into the canal days after the sewage dump and died of a massive bacterial infection, as well as serious infections contracted by a surfer off of Waikiki.

At a press conference Thursday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell hailed the completion of a new permanent pipe that will allow workers to begin removing the pipe in mid-June. The project, including building a new sewage pipe, has cost taxpayers $40 million.

“We never want to have that happen again,” Caldwell said of the 2006 sewage dump. “It became national news, it was reported on morning news shows. And it really impacted tourism and it impacted the health and safety of our residents and visitors alike.”

The “black noodle,” set for removal.

The new pipe will allow the bank of the canal near Iolani School to be opened once again to walkers, bikers and canoe paddlers. Caldwell says he plans to restore the area and build a dog park.

Dumping the sewage into the canal was a violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act. The federal Environmental Protection Agency subsequently required the city to maintain a backup pipe to divert sewage in case of another rupture. The incident also added traction to an eventual $5 billion settlement between the city and EPA in 2010 to fix the city’s aging and dilapidated sewer system.

Engineers recently finished burying the new backup pipe along the banks of the canal. The pipe, large enough to walk through, crosses the canal twice, where it is buried under 40-feet of bottom sediment, before emerging near Ala Moana Beach Park.

While the “black noodle” was installed in 90 days as a makeshift backup, the new pipe is state-of-the-art.

“It was the first double s-curve in the U.S.,” said William Wanner, construction manager at Honolulu-based AECOM, which is overseeing the project. “It kind of made a left curve and a right curve, like an ‘s.’”

The wastewater in the old pipe will be pumped into a manhole near the canal. Air will then be released into the pipe, allowing the pipe to rise to the surface. Workers will pluck the piping out of the canal using heavy equipment, then saw it into pieces before it’s carted away by truck.

The project is expected to take about six weeks.

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