Investigation underway after force main break sends 68,000 gallons of raw sewage into ocean

Photos: County of Maui

Maui County is looking into what damaged a 20-inch force main that sent tens of thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into the ocean Thursday.

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) first became aware of the force main damage after discovering a sewage leak at 9 a.m., behind a warehouse on the corner of Waiehu Beach Road and Kahului Beach Road, where the county has an easement.

County crews immediately worked to contain the spill in order to limit the volume that entered the ocean, completing the construction of a protective berm by 11 a.m.

Crews then tried to find the origin of the leak and, while digging up the area of the force main, found about 20 tires of various sizes, on top of and on the side of the pipe. It was there surrounded by the tires that crews found the damage to the main.

“It’s a clean, straight cut,” said DEM director Stewart Stant. “It’s not corrosion because we just put in this force main seven years ago. It definitely looks like someone hit it using heavy equipment and damaged it and it wasn’t one of our crews.”

An estimated 68,000 gallons of wastewater flowed over a dirt access road to the Wailuku Pump Station and into the ocean. The remaining 136,000 gallons of wastewater were contained on site after a dirt berm was constructed.

The area was cleaned and disinfected, bacteriological tests were conducted, and warning signs were posted.

Following the discovery of the spill the county contacted the State Department of Health (DOH), which had a representative on scene when the damage was uncovered.

The county will turn over all findings and information involving the damaged main to the DOH – which is the reporting authority for wastewater spills – so it can follow up with its own investigation.

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