Some 40,000 gallons of raw sewage had flowed into Palolo Stream as of Tuesday afternoon as city workers scrambled to plug an overflowing manhole that had been polluting the waterway for 14-plus hours.

The sewage mixed swiftly with stream water, flowing out into the Ala Wai Canal and popular surfing and swimming spots along Waikiki and Ala Moana beaches. 

Along the Ala Wai Canal and Magic Island, signs warned people to stay out of the water and not fish in the sewage-tainted water.

Couple looks out over sewage on Magic Island where the Ala Wai Canal flows out to the ocean in Ala Moana Beach Park on July 22, 2014.

A couple looks out over sewage on Magic Island where the Ala Wai Canal flows out to the ocean in Ala Moana Beach Park on July 22, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

But this didn’t stop people from fishing along the banks of Magic Island that face the Ala Wai Boat Harbor, or about a dozen surfers who were enjoying waist-high waves at Bowls.

Kids frolicked in the water, while newlyweds in Ala Moana Beach Park posed for wedding photos, seemingly oblivious to the pollution. 

As workers fiddled with the manhole overflowing with dirty, brown wastewater on a soggy plot of grass in the Palolo Valley Homes public housing complex, evidence of the cause of the spill could be seen nearby, including a broken blue tricycle. 

Fisherman working the waters despite caution signs along Magic Island in Ala Moana Beach Park on July 22, 2014.

A fisherman works the waters despite caution signs along Magic Island in Ala Moana Beach Park on July 22, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Someone had apparently shoved the tricycle, clothes, rocks and sticks down the manhole, clogging it, as well as a 15-inch pipe and two siphons that run under the stream, according to Lori Kahikina, director of the city’s Department of Environmental Services.

Workers had been on the job since 10:30 p.m. Monday, said Kahikina, who called the situation “extremely hard” to fix. 

The city is hoping to have pumps installed by sometime Tuesday afternoon that divert the sewage into wastewater pipes downstream, she said. 

City worker tries to unplug sewer blockage in Palolo in July 22.14

A city worker tries to unplug sewer blockage in Palolo, July 22, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

In the meantime, she urged nearby residents in Palolo to cut back on water use and issued a plea to the general public not to clog manholes or flush unwanted material down toilets.

“The only thing that should be going into the sewers is ‘number one,’ ‘number two’ and toilet paper,” she said. “Nothing else — no rainwater, no other debris, toys — that’s it. No tricycles, engine blocks, bowling balls — we see it all down there.”

UPDATE: As of 8:30 p.m., the sewage spill had been contained, according to Markus Owens, a spokesman for the city’s environmental services department. An estimated 103,400 gallons of raw sewage flowed into Palolo Stream.

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