HAUULA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The mouth of Pokiwai Stream is usually blocked by sand that builds beneath the Kamehameha Highway bridge that crosses it. There's a pipe that runs beneath the sand that allows water to flow from the stream. But residents say there's something that's been added to the pipe that may be making the problem worse.
According to residents, a duck bill valve was installed on the pipe about two weeks ago. It's meant to open with water pressure from the stream, which would allow it to empty into the ocean, while keeping the ocean from washing into the stream. However, the sand has also built up around the valve, preventing it from opening.
"I saw a lot of construction going on and I thought they were solving the problem," said resident Suzanne Shephard. "And now I just found out that it seems to have made the problem worse."
That's because the valve has kept the stream from flowing into the ocean. It also means the stream water has become stagnant. "And now we're having some pond scum come up and some health issues in our stream," said Krista Nielsen, who lives next to the stream. "We noticed some fish were dying in our stream."
The so-called pond scum is a light brown, foamy-looking substance that has built up on the stream's surface. Environmental activist Carroll Cox of the group Envirowatch contends it might be wastewater. "This is in an area that has been exempted and is allowed to have cesspools, grandfathered, in some of these residences," he said.
Cox said he had talked with state wastewater officials about the problem, and also plans to talk to city officials next week. Those officials were unavailable for comment Saturday, but a city crew had responded to residents' calls for help, clearing the sand away from the mouth of the pipe on the mauka side of the bridge.
"We all made calls yesterday and they said they would bring a crew out the next day to try to maintain the pipe and help us out, so it was nice to see them out here this morning," said Nielsen.
But she also said that it's just a temporary fix that covers some bigger issues, and that the duck bill valve isn't the answer.