Waters off second Hawaii beach fouled by partially treated sewage

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 27, 2015 9:55 PM

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) - Hawaii health authorities have posted warnings of a sewage spill at a popular beach once proposed to be renamed after President Barack Obama, marking the second time this week that a well-known stretch of Oahu's shoreline has been hit by such a mishap.

About 1 million gallons of wastewater that ran through a treatment plant without being disinfected flowed into the ocean on Tuesday off Sandy Beach, a favorite spot for body surfers on the east end of the island, roughly 15 miles from Honolulu.

The discharge prompted the state Health Department to post advisories along more than a mile of coastline, including Sandy Beach, Allison Nunnally, an environmental health specialist for the agency, said on Thursday.

The beach itself remained opened, but the public was urged to stay out of the ocean while water samples collected in the area were analyzed to determine the level of risk, she said.

The discharge of less-than-fully treated sewage was caused by an electrical failure that cut off the flow of chlorine disinfectant into the wastewater before it gets pumped into the ocean, said Evan Jacobs, a spokesman for Hawaii American Water, which operates the treatment plant.

Wastewater discharged from the plant enters the Pacific about a quarter-mile offshore of Sandy Beach from a outfall pipe 40 feet deep, Nunnally said.

Sandy Beach, known by locals for its long shore break, made headlines last year after two Honolulu City Council members proposed renaming the spot for Obama, the first Hawaii-born U.S. president. But the resolution was withdrawn after the plan drew mixed reactions from the public.

On Wednesday night, officials reopened Honolulu's famed Waikiki Beach after water quality tests there showed the ocean was safe again for swimming following the spill of 500,000 gallons of untreated sewage.

Wastewater in that instance was spewed from manhole covers and into storm drains leading to the ocean during torrential rains on Monday that hit while a sewage pumping station was shut down for maintenance.

Heavy downpours in recent days have prompted Hawaii health authorities to issue a "brown-water" advisory for storm water runoff across the islands and warnings of several smaller wastewater spills on Oahu.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Eric Beech)