City works on sinking Ala Wai sewer pipe

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's supposed to be out of sight, out of mind, sitting on the bottom of the Ala Wai Canal.  Instead a 100-foot section of sewer line is floating on the surface.

"It looks like a submarine. I thought, gee, that's interesting. What the heck is that?" passerby Tina Quizon said.

The city said warm air mixed with gas from waste in the line.  That formed a mass of air bubbles that floated the pipe to the surface Saturday morning.

It surprised Marilyn Dettmann, who lives in the Discovery Bay condominium.

"You wonder if it's going to break because it's heaped up in the center," she said.

The pipe is plastic. The entire temporary bypass line is 5,000 feet long.  It was installed after a 2006 break in Waikiki forced the city to flush 48 million gallons of sewage into the canal.

Department of Environmental Services director Tim Steinberger said the line has been turned off and there is only a small amount of sewage in the pipe.

"Right now all of the flows from Beachwalk run through the old force main. But this is our backup," he said.

Environmental watchdog Carroll Cox of EnviroWatch Inc. worries the longer the pipe floats, the more chance of an accident.

"If there's any type of continuous movement it's going to weaken something here, possibly the seams," he said.

Steinberger said the chance of a sewage leak is very low, while the city studies how best to vent the air and sink the pipe.

"What we'll be doing is putting a collar around the pipe. The collar gives us the ability to put another valve on the collar, so you can drill through the valve and make more attachments after you've drilled through the pipe. Then we'll gradually release the gas through a series of odor mitigating canisters," Steinberger said.

Some people who see the pipe it think it's an overturned boat.

"It looked like a torpedo or something," Dettmann said.

"It doesn't look very good aesthetically" Quizon said. "A lot of people walk here. We get a lot of tourists. You look over and see something like that. "

The city hopes to re-submerge the pipe within two to three weeks.  The work will be paid for out of an emergency fund.

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