City takes steps to prevent sewage overflow from happening again

More than 100,000 gallons of raw sewage overflowed from a blocked manhole in Palolo and ultimately into the ocean this week.

Now, the city is taking steps to prevent it from happening again.

The problem started on Ahe Street. At around 9 p.m. Monday a manhole started overflowing, causing sewage to spill into the Palolo stream and ultimately into waters surrounding Ala Moana Beach Park.

Crews discovered the manhole was stuffed with trash.

“I think somebody was throwing maybe some debris or rocks,” said Steven Murray who lives near the manhole. Murray, like officials KHON2 spoke with, believes the sewer backup was from somebody throwing things down into it.

While nobody has come forward yet, the city says they’ve seen incidents like this before, and that it’s pretty hard for some of the things they’ve found in the sewer lines to get there without some help.

“We have found all types of things,” said Lori Kahikina, director of environmental services. “Clothing, jeans, bowling balls, engine blocks, so this has occurred before, but it’s very difficult to pinpoint who exactly is putting the objects into the sewer system.”

Could these items have gotten there by being washed into the sewer lines from somewhere else?

Officials say it isn’t likely. “Somebody would actually have to physically lift up that 75-pound manhole cover and put it in,” said Kahikina. “You can’t flush those things down a toilet and there are no entry points.”

While it is hard to monitor this, the city says it has a solution for this specific cover.

“In this particular case, we are going to put a locking manhole,” said Kahikina.

There could also be a few others installed in the area as well, but for now only one. The city says the problem with locking manholes is they are very expensive. That’s why they’re only installed in certain areas.

“Whenever we have problem sites, we do install the locking manhole cover,” said Kahikina.

While this should help for this particular case, the city still urges anyone with information to call the police so this doesn’t happen again.

As for testing of the water, samples have been taken. Now, the city will wait for the Department of Health to make sure the water is safe once again before removing the signs.

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