Crews unsure what caused 25-year-old pipe to break

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Apr 05 2013 06:19:00 PM HST

More than 1,000 gallons of raw sewage poured into pristine waters off Oahu's west coast. But why it happened is still a mystery.

HONOLULU -

Nearly 15 hours after sewage spewed from the ground, crews were still digging a crater and sucking up soupy stuff to find the source of the spill.

"What the tanker trucks are doing right now is recovering everything to take the weight off the pipe," said Markus Owens, spokesperson for Honolulu's Environmental Services branch.

Just after nine Thursday night, warnings went up that the pressure was going down near the waste water pump station at Ko Olina.

Owens said a forced main broke, causing well over a 1,000 gallons of raw sewage to overflow into storm drains, then to pour into the ocean nearby.

"You just got so much stress on the pipe itself, with all the gas and material flowing through, you do get a little wear and tear inside," he said.

"They health and safety of all of our guests is always our priority," said Sweetie Nelson, spokesperson for Ko Olina.

The resort area was forced to prohibit ocean access at two of its lagoons, while scientists tested for bacteria throughout the day.

"It sucks. We're in Hawaii and we want to go in the water, but we can't today," said Stephen Stand, who is from California.

"I'm glad they told us, because I didn't want any of that on me," said Lisa Fernandez, visiting from New York.

Ko Olina posted signs all over the place; it was still tough to keep people out of the water.

"Guys, get out of the water," one woman yelled at her kids, who were swimming in a prohibited area, despite warning signs.

The spill was contained just after midnight Friday, with 7,000-gallon tankers running back-to-back, trucking off the flow Friday afternoon.

It will be up to the state to call the water "clear" after an uncomfortable inconvenience.

"We're just as anxious as everyone else to hear when that will be," said Nelson.

The city said the water fronting Ko Olina's first and second lagoons will likely be closed throughout the weekend, but said the high surf should help clear the water faster.

As of Friday night, investigators still don't know what caused the break, or just how much sewage spilled into the ocean.
 

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