Waikiki beaches closed after rains trigger sewage spill

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HONOLULU (AP) — Heavy rains triggered a half-million gallon sewage spill in Honolulu, prompting city officials Monday to close most of the beach fronting Waikiki.

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HONOLULU (AP) — Heavy rains triggered a half-million gallon sewage spill in Honolulu, prompting city officials Monday to close most of the beach fronting Waikiki.

Storm water flowed into the city’s sewage system as a weather system linked to Tropical Storm Kilo dumped heavy rain throughout the islands.

The inundation overwhelmed the sewage system, causing 500,000 gallons of wastewater to spew from manholes, said Lori Kahikina, Honolulu’s director of environmental services.

“Now’s not the time to go swimming,” she told reporters. It could be a couple of days before the ocean is clear enough for people to enter, Kahikina estimated.

The city is advising people to avoid a 4-mile stretch of waterfront from Kapahulu Avenue in Waikiki to Point Panic in Kakaako. Sewage came out of manholes at Ala Moana Beach Park, on a street fronting a shopping mall at the edge of Waikiki and a pumping station.

Shayne Enright, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Emergency Services, cautioned the ocean was dangerous.

“We don’t know right now what is in the water. You could get a serious infection, get extremely sick or even worse,” she said.

Kahikina says the storm water entered the sewage system as leaves and debris clogged the storm drains. She said some witnesses reported people were opening manhole covers to let the storm water drain into the sewage system, even though sewage pipes and pumps aren’t designed to handle that volume of liquid. She noted it’s illegal to open manhole covers.

In 2006, the city temporarily closed Waikiki’s beaches after 48 million gallons of raw sewage poured into the Ala Wai Canal bordering the area’s hotels and condominiums. That spill occurred after a sewage line ruptured following weeks of heavy rains, forcing the city to divert wastewater into the canal.

Two schools in the state were closed because of flooding Monday. The American Red Cross temporarily opened a shelter in Pearl City on Oahu after a home with about 16 residents was flooded. The shelter since closed because the landlord found housing for the people living in the home, according to Krislyn Yano, Honolulu Red Cross communications manager.

A number of roads were closed Monday because of flooding and pooling on highways, slowing the morning commute as the University of Hawaii began its fall semester.

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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office said several city facilities, including the Honolulu Zoo, were closed because of flooding.

Lifeguards were warning visitors to all island beaches about a brown water advisory issued by the state Department of Health, saying that flood waters might be contaminated.

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