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Last week, crews patched the cracked 42-in. force main that has released more than 10 million gal of raw sewage into Hawaii’s Ala Wai Canal by filling cracks with lead wool, wrapping the main with a resin fiberglass material and covering it with a reinforced concrete jacket, according to city of Honolulu spokesman Bill Brennan. The three truckloads of concrete used as a cover will take 24 hours to cure, The Honolulu Advertiser reported.
Hawaii’s Department of Health is investigating if the break could have been prevented, said department spokesman Kurt Tsue. Fines are possible, and the city may have to conduct a full environmental impact study.
Since the main broke, raw sewage has traveled down the Ala Wai Canal, into the Ala Wai boat harbor and out to sea. Traces of it showed up at surf spots outside the harbor channel and some people feared kona winds might carry the waste to Waikiki Beach. Waikiki lifeguards said they've had thousands of inquiries about the safety of the water, according to The Honolulu Advertiser.
Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the lifeguards, said that although people were advised not to, lifeguards couldn't keep them out of the water. Bad weather, however, prevented a lot of people from going to the beach.
George Carayannis, who lives on a boat in the harbor, said the city’s decision to dump untreated sewage into the canal was unacceptable because of the health hazards, according to The Honolulu advertiser. He reported seeing tourists, surfers and fishermen in the water since the main broke.
Tsue said sewage could drift to Waikiki, and tests are being conducted daily between Diamond Head and Kewalo. A kona wind and high tide could also bring sewage back to Ala Moana Beach Park, which for the most part is safe, he said. Warning signs to stay out of the water have been posted at Magic Island.
The city had no alternative to dumping sewage into the canal, according to Tsue, because the broken pipe is a force main, which is under constant heavy pressure. The city tried to truck material away, but once the main was shut, sewage would overflow into buildings.
Officials said the breaks in the line on Kai'olu Street appear to have been caused by the heavy flow of rainwater into the sewage system and the settling problems of the old sewer line. Repairs were difficult because rain kept filling the area around the pipe and because of the need to work around underground utilities, The Honolulu Advertiser reported.
The sewer line was built in 1964 to carry raw sewage from the Beachwalk Wastewater Pumping Station toward the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. The line carries most of the sewage generated in Waikiki, Manoa and Mo'ili'ili, about 15 mgd, according to officials.