HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The big stink in Kakaako could be the result of a city project.
When Hawaii News Now first reported last month about complaints of sewage odors by Kakaako residents, the city blamed the problem on a design flaw at a luxury high rise where many of the complaining residents live.
But since then, we have learned that city contractors have been pumping sewage debris and odors out of an aging sewer line for months, and the residents say that's the reason behind the smells.
"They're pumping sewage out to stop the smell," said George Beavin, president of the One Waterfront Tower condo association.
"I see them regularly. Whenever I drive down Auahi, I see them pumping."
The pumping trucks belong to subcontractors working for the city on an $11.4 million sewer rehabilitation project near the corner of Auahi and Keawe Streets.
Contractor Frank Coluccio Construction is replacing nearly 2,000 feet of sewer lines with six-inch pipes. The old sewer line is not a traditional cast-iron sewer pipe but is a six-foot by six-foot underground sewage tunnel that's encased in concrete.
The 57-year-old tunnel carries about 16 million gallons a day of sewage from over 35,000 properties and needed to be replaced because it was in poor structural condition.
As part its work, Coluccio must clean out sewage debris trapped in the lines by pumping it into trucks that transport the muck either to Sand Island or other large sewer mains.
Residents at One Waterfront Tower say the pump trucks prove that there's not enough sewage capacity in the neighborhood to handle all of the new construction headed for Kakaako.
Nearly 30 new developments are planned for Kakaako over the next 20 years, which is expected to add more than 10,000 residents to the area.
"I thought about moving because of the smells," said Deborah Whisnand, a One Waterfront Tower resident for the past two years.
"This smell, I cannot imagine it getting any better as they are building these huge complexes and buildings around us."
For people who work at One Waterfront Tower, the smells are so strong, they have to wear a mask just to avoid getting sick.
"It's difficult to sit here and smells those gas fumes. You get migraines, you feel nauseous. It's horrible," said Crystal McGee, operations manager at One Waterfront Tower, as she donned a mask while manning the condo's parking kiosk.
"The sewer system is horrible."
City officials initially said the odor problem was hyped by One Waterfront's residents, who oppose many of the new buildings that are going up in their neighborhood.
But on Sunday, they backtracked, saying they were not sure what's causing the smells. They are now putting together a task force to investigate.
Councilwomen Ann Kobayashi and Carol Fukunaga recently wrote to the city about the odors but they say they haven't gotten clear answers from city officials.
"(Residents) have been complaining about the smell and they were told it's like they are imagining things. But it's very real," Kobayashi said.