Keith Kawaoka, deputy director at the state Department of Health, said that testing at more than 20 sites showed that bacteria levels have decreased dramatically and it’s now safe to swim.
A statewide brown water advisory is still in effect, however. Residents and tourists are encouraged to use their best judgment before entering the water.
“At this point the beaches are open and people can make their decisions based on what they see in the water,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
“If the water is brown, stay out of the water,” Kawaoka advised.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell points to the flange area of a pump station that was the cause of major sewage spill.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Residents are still warned not to go swimming at the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor and Kewalo Basin Small Boat Harbor, Kawaoka said.
Lori Kahikina, director of the city Department of Environmental Services, said Wednesday that 393,000 gallons spilled, with 129,000 gallons entering the water.
She apologized for the spill and blamed it in part on miscommunication involving her department, the Department of Design and Construction and the contractor that was working on upgrading Ala Moana Pump Station No. 2.
The spill was caused in part by stormwater and debris that clogged the city’s drainage system. Ala Moana Pump Station No. 1, which can handle up to 60 million gallons per day, was overwhelmed.
Pump Station No. 2, which can handle up to 100 million gallons per day, was offline because it was being renovated as part of the city’s required upgrades through a $4.7 billion consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency.
On Monday at 7 a.m., the city told the contractor to install a flange to bring the pump station back into use, but the process took four to five hours.
“We miscalculated,” said Kahikina, adding that the city should have had the contractor install the flange over the weekend in preparation for the storm. “They underestimated the rainfall.”
Kahikina said her department would meet with the Department of Design and Construction after the press conference to discuss how to improve their communication.
Many sewer upgrades are funded by the Department of Environmental Services but managed by the Department of Design and Construction.
Caldwell said the city might consider merging the departments or some of their responsibilities through the charter commission process this year.
“It’s unacceptable,” he said of the spill. “We do not want to see this occur again.”
Meanwhile, Caldwell said Tropical Storm Ignacio is moving toward Hawaii at 12 mph with 65-mph winds. It’s supposed to become a hurricane by Thursday.
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