Public demands accountability for McCully sewage spill

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KHON2 first exposed the story Saturday of sewage being dumped from the McCully Shopping Center.

Thousands of gallons of wastewater flowed onto the public streets and into the storm drains, but hours went by before anything was done about it.

KHON2 went to investigate who would be held accountable for this mess.

Ultimately, the burden of responsibility falls on the private property owner McCully Shopping Center.

So far, KHON2 called and emailed to their management company, Sofos Realty Corporation, but have yet to receive a response.

It was the filthy scene at the McCully Shopping Center, as thousands of gallons of raw sewage spilled out into the parking lot and streets.

“Toilet tissue, human waste, fecal matter all of that is unacceptable,” EnviroWatch President Carroll Cox said.

What’s worse — the people driving, biking, and walking through it had no idea it was wastewater.

“Imagine the contamination factor there, how many people are being contaminated,”Cox said.

But it took awhile before anyone responded.

KHON2 learned the sewage began spilling out onto the streets around 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

KHON2 just happened to be in the area around 1:30p.m. and went to investigate. KHON2 found out the spill was unreported, so we called 911, the city, and the state Department of Health.

The first city crew from the Department of Environmental Services showed up around 4 p.m. They said it was a private spill and not in their jurisdiction and left.

Then a state crew came out to offer assistance around 5:30 p.m. and left when the shopping center finally got a contractor to pump out the sewage and disinfect the area. That means more than seven hours had passed.

“Pretty gross. I think they should respond to raw sewage fast,” McCully resident Ashleigh Meyer said.

DOH believes anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 gallons of sewage was released.

Saturday night, they sent out a press release warning people to stay out of the Ala Wai Canal and promising warning signs to be posted.

But Saturday night, warning signs were nowhere to be seen, or early Sunday morning, when paddlers usually practice.

“If my nephew didn’t call me, I wouldn’t have known. I would’ve come into the water,” Kamehameha Canoe Club Coach Kealohilani Ahai said.

Sunday morning, the DOH sent out another press release saying that, “the staff walked the Ala Wai Canal and found no evidence that sewage made its way into the canal.”

They didn’t mention water sampling, just visual observations.

“Pretty much normal and the response is what’s really normal,” Cox said.

Even the DOH says it was a normal response and everything worked how it was supposed to.

But lawmakers like Rep. Chris Lee, Chair of the House Environmental Protection Committee, says this should not be the norm.

“I think it’s important that the state learns from situations like these and improves their response time more than anything,” Rep. Lee said.

Environmentalists are calling for a more streamlined process starting with one hotline number rather than multiple numbers for each jurisdiction, making it easier for the public to know who to call for help.

Rep. Lee is calling for more inspectors on staff that can respond to after-hour and weekend emergencies.

“Taking a look at their budget is important and we’re going to be doing that this coming year,” Rep. Lee said. “Our infrastructure is aging, we are having more and more condo units and houses being built, more pressure being placed on our sewage system, and we need to get a handle on that.”

The DOH will be following up by sending inspectors, including some to visit the food establishments at the McCully Shopping Center.

If inspectors find negligence was a factor in Saturday’s spill, the shopping center could be slapped with some fines.

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