Department of Health Testing Water at Hawaii Beaches Following Sewage Spill

A distant view of the Waikiki Yacht Club and Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu, Hawaii. // Photo by Groves

Several media outlets are reporting that the Department of Health is testing a four-mile stretch of waterfront from Kapahulu Avenue in Waikiki to Point Panic in Kakaako after 500,000 gallons of sewage came out of manholes at Ala Moana Beach Park.

It occurred on a street fronting a shopping mall at the edge of Waikiki, where there are two pumping stations, according to the Associated Press (AP). According to Hawaii News Now, the escape was facilitated by people who had illegally opened the manholes to alleviate flooding during heavy rainfall.

"It depends where the tidal flow is," said Keith Kawaoka, Hawaii State Department of Health deputy director for environmental health, at a news conference Tuesday. "It depends on the high tide, low tide situation, where the currents are flowing. That's why we're doing sampling in over 20 areas from Kakaako to Diamond Head to determine where the extent the sewage might have flowed to."

According to a statement issued late Monday afternoon by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), “Extremely heavy rain overnight has caused wastewater to be discharged at Ala Moana Boulevard and Atkinson Drive on Oahu. As a result, the City and County of Honolulu has closed Ala Moana Regional Park and visitors and residents are being advised to avoid standing water near the park, and to remain out of coastal water between Point Panic (Kakaako Waterfront Park) and the Kapahulu Groin in Waikiki until further notice.”

According to the AP, most of the famed beach fronting Waikiki was closed after heavy rains triggered a half-million gallon sewage spill near Hawaii's world-famous tourist district, officials said. The area was closed Monday after storm water flowed into the city's sewage system as a weather system linked to Tropical Storm Kilo dumped heavy rain on the islands, according to the AP.

The inundation overwhelmed the sewage system, causing 500,000 gallons of wastewater to spew from manholes, said Lori Kahikina, Honolulu's director of environmental services, according to the AP. Kahikina told the AP that it would be at least a few days before people can enter the ocean, since it takes that long to test water samples for safety. 

“The HTA will continue to monitor the situation,” according to the HTA’s statement, “and coordinate with the City and County of Honolulu and the State Department of Health, and provide updates as necessary.” 

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