Requests for info about sewage spill near Ko Olina go unanswered

The city is no longer responding to KHON2’s requests for more information about a sewage spill near Ko Olina.

On Friday, we asked if there was a mix-up between which pump station was shut down and which one was still working, and if that mistake could have led to a bigger spill.

The city is required to reveal more information in a spill report that should have been submitted to the state last week. But the city has asked for an extension, so it’s not clear when that report will be filed.

So on Monday, we asked Stuart Yamada of the state Dept. of Health about the extension and when we can expect to see the report. He said the department has asked the city to expedite that spill report.

The state is also waiting for the city to respond to another matter related to the massive sewage spill in Ala Moana in August of last year.

As for this most recent spill that happened Nov. 30, after we pressed the city last week, the city told us that more than 200,000 gallons had spilled from a broken force main. City crews had to disinfect about an acre of undeveloped land.

We then asked the city on Friday if city crews were mistaken about which pump station was working, because the city initially sent a news release saying it was West Beach Pump Number 1. Hours later, another release was sent saying it was Pump Number 2.

Sources also told us that crews were mistaken, so more sewage was poured into the broken pump station, which led to a bigger spill.

Yamada says if that were the case, the city has to improve on how it responds to spills. “Because if the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing, then clearly there needs to be something to formally address that kind of shortcoming.”

Those details would have to be revealed in the spill report. Yamada tells us there is no deadline on when the city has to file it.

The state is also patiently waiting for a city response on making improvements to the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. After the massive spill at Ala Moana, the state issued what’s known as an Administrative Order on Consent to the city, or AOC. Part of it calls for adding more staff to the plant for quicker response to spills.

We’ve asked the city for a status update on that AOC, like are there plans to add more staffing at the treatment plant. We’re still waiting for a response. Our request for an interview with Environmental Services Director Lori Kahikina, and questions on the spill, were ignored by spokesman Markus Owens.

Yamada says the state could force the city to agree to the AOC, but that could lead to more delays with lawsuits.

“Rather than just go into a punitive fine, and slap in the back of the head and say ‘can you do better,’ if we can make constructive improvements, we’ll all be beneficiaries of that,” he said.

Always Investigating asked about the AOC last week and the city said it was still being reviewed by corporation counsel.

With regard to the spill report, the state says it is not unusual for the city to ask for an extension. As for the reason, the state says the city is not required to give one.

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