City requests emergency proclamation to fix ongoing sewage issue in West Oahu

The city is taking steps to fix a troublesome sewage problem in West Oahu.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is asking Gov. David Ige for an emergency proclamation to speed up repairs to prevent another massive spill.

KHON2 was the first to tell you about the problems when the spills started happening last year.

The city says that within a four-month period, there were six sewage spills in that area. We wanted to know how an emergency proclamation can help.

The idea is to speed up the process. City officials say the sewage pipes, in their current condition, pose an environmental and a public safety risk.

The city says corrosion is causing the two sewage pipes known as force mains to crack at the West Beach Wastewater Pump Station near Ko Olina Resort. That has led to hundreds of thousands of raw sewage to spill in the area.

In its request to the state for an emergency proclamation to replace the pipes, the city points out that future spills are likely.

Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who represents the area, says a proclamation is necessary.

“This would bypass some procurement rules, and we never like doing that, but because this is a very serious situation that could affect the health and safety of people especially in the immediate area, we felt this was something that was very important to do,” Pine said.

In a statement, Lori Kahikina, director of the city’s Department of Environmental Services, said that getting an emergency proclamation would expedite the process and would save at least a year. The procurement procedure can lead to legal challenges that can cause numerous delays.

The city would also need several permits from federal, state, and city agencies.

“How unusual is this?” KHON2 asked.

“I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen something like this for a project like this,” said Pine. “We’ve seen a lot of sewer breaks before, but never as Channel 2 has reported so many in one location with the same piping, which shows we have a very unusual situation which very rarely happens.”

Pine says the city council first had to appropriate the money. The cost of the project is $33.6 million. The city adds that due to the frequency of the sewage spills, the pipes pose an environmental and public safety risk.

“We actually have to thank you for reporting on the unusualness of these breaks, and the city definitely took action right away and the City Council supported the mayor’s request for the money, and this will help it to get done a little faster to ensure that you’re not reporting on another break anytime soon,” said Pine.

KHON2 checked with the governor’s office and a spokeswoman says the governor stands ready to support the request. She’s hopeful that a response will be given within the next two weeks.

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