Kakaako residents, annoyed by the stink of sewers that wafts up toward their homes, will have to keep holding out for solutions — and holding their breaths — for months or more.
Frustrated locals aired their complaints and questions at a Honolulu City Council hearing on Wednesday, but city officials didn’t offer satisfying answers on when and how the city will eliminate the noxious odors.
The City Council’s Committee on Public Works and Sustainability heard testimony related to a resolution that would ask Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Services to figure out what’s wrong with sewer lines in Kakaako and solve the problem.
But council members decided to postpone voting on the resolution until next month because city officials and the Hawaii Construction Alliance, a grouping of construction-related unions, disagreed on its wording.
Kakaako residents have been dealing with bad smells for years but the chronic problem is gaining urgency as proposals advance to build new high-rise developments — including a 46-story residential building on South Street — in the area.
“It’s a lingering sewage smell created by sewer lingering in the pipes,” said John Horvath, the residential manager of One Waterfront Towers in Kakaako where residents are complaining. “There seems to be a flow problem that you’re not going to get to go away unless you do something about the flow.”
Lori Kahikina, director of the Department of Environmental Services, told council members that the city is working to solve the problem.
The city formed a task force last month to investigate the issue but the group won’t have any recommendations ready until next spring.
That’s too long for many residents and representatives like Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi. “It doesn’t sound like a solution is soon,” Kobayashi said. “Is there anything that can happen, like, now?”
Guy Inouye, assistant chief in the wastewater division of the Department of Design and Construction, said the city can install an “odor-check valve” as a short-term solution, but both he and Kahikina at Environmental Services appeared hesitant to commit to a shorter timeline.
“We need to have the team do their analysis,” Kahikina said. “This is a bigger (sewer) line so we just want to make sure that we do it correctly and we don’t cause further issues.”
Inouye said that while city officials can reduce the smell, he isn’t sure if they can get rid of it altogether.
That’s not reassuring to some Kakaako residents who worry about how the addition of thousands of new toilets in their neighborhood could make the odor worse.
“I don’t have a lot of confidence that the city actually has adequate capacity or means to address our sewer problems,” said Kakaako resident George Outlaw. “This has been going on for a long, long time.”
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