Heavy rainfall brought by Hurricane Lane caused untreated wastewater to discharge Friday into Hilo Bay, according to the county’s Department of Environmental Management.
Discharge at the shoreline occurred at the Paukaa and Wailuku sewage pump stations on Hilo Bay, while a spill at the Pua sewage pump station near Puhi Bay in Keaukaha was about 3/4 of a mile away from the shoreline.
According to the county, the pump stations were unable to accommodate abnormally high flows as a result of the rainfall.
An initial spill happened at 5:45 a.m. Friday.
At about 1:45 p.m., Wastewater Division Chief Dora Beck said the spills had ceased at that point, “but I would expect, as the day wears on, if we get more rain, we might be discharging again.”
At that time, the three spills were the only ones reported, and while Beck said there’s always the possibility of additional spills, the division is “trying to do everything we can to minimize that.”
Beck said she was working to get an estimate of discharge amounts Friday afternoon, but that information wasn’t immediately available.
With the “amount of intense rain” the area has received, Beck said she wasn’t surprised by the overflow.
The rain is “more than we’ve ever had in a long time,” she said. “The grounds (are) becoming saturated, so the rain waters are ending up entering the collection system and into our pump stations, and the pumps just can’t keep up.”
As for next steps, Beck said the county will follow the state Department of Health’s directions since the discharge is going into state waters.
“They have sent out a brown water alert to everybody, so as far as staying out of the water, that’s the call to be made by DOH,” she said.
According to information on the DOH website, a statewide brown water advisory was issued Thursday because of stormwater runoff entering coastal waters in the wake of Hurricane Lane.
“This advisory is preemptive for some areas, however it is anticipated that most coastal waters will be affected by stormwater runoff,” the advisory reads.
Notices of the wastewater discharges at the three East Hawaii pump stations also were posted on the DOH website Friday, and the public was advised to remain out of the water at Wailuku River, Hilo Bay and the coastal waters near Paukaa.
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.