Health Department says Hilo Bay waters are safe

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The state Department of Health cleared all remaining Hilo Bay beaches still affected by a sewage spill Monday to reopen Wednesday afternoon after tests showed the water to be safe to enter.

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The state Department of Health cleared all remaining Hilo Bay beaches still affected by a sewage spill Monday to reopen Wednesday afternoon after tests showed the water to be safe to enter.

An estimated 41,000 gallons of untreated sewage spilled into the Wailuku River on Monday morning when a blockage in a 10-inch sewer main flowed into a manhole that had a 4-inch abandoned lateral line of which workers were unaware. Sewage poured from the sewer line at the corner of Waianuenue Avenue and Laimana Street near Hilo High School rather than going to the water treatment plant.

The lateral line since was capped.

The spill contaminated the Wailuku River, and the river’s flow into Hilo Bay contaminated the bay.

On Tuesday, warning signs alerting people to the possible contamination and that no water activities were recommended remained posted at several Hilo Bay locations. Restrictions were lifted Tuesday afternoon along Banyan Drive out to Coconut Island and the harbor after water tests showed those locations were safe. Remaining areas along the bayfront to the river’s mouth tested safe on Wednesday.

Materials that caused the sewer line blockage included shirts, rags, towels, a 12-inch chisel, plastic bags and candy wrappers.

A Hawaii County Wastewater Spill Report says “it is suspected that the debris may have originated from the Hilo jail.”

The Tribune-Herald requested an interview with Hawaii Community Correctional Center Warden Peter Cabreros.

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“The Department of Public Safety has not been notified by the county of any issues having to do with the sewage spill, other than a notice to conserve water,” Toni Schwartz, public information officer at the state DPS, said in response to the newspaper’s inquiry.

Email Jeff Hansel at jhansel@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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