EXCLUSIVE: Kahaluu Church focus of sewage leak probe - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: Kahaluu Church focus of sewage leak probe

KAHALUU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Health officials are investigating a Kahaluu church as one of several major sources for sewage contamination in the nearby waterways.

Investigators visited the Windward Baptist Church several weeks ago where they found that its septic system was nearly overfilled. 

Sources told investigators that some excess sewage was being diverted into a protective drain, or leach field, that overflowed into the lagoon during heavy rains.

The water directly behind the church has some of the highest bacterial levels anywhere in the state and is 100 times more than what's considered safe.

"That's a really high number. It's a higher number than most all other places," said Marvin Heskett, chairman of the Surfrider Foundation's Oahu Chapter.

"This as it is is more of a concern than the Ala Wai as far as bacteria is concerned."

Heskett is referring to the 2006 disaster where the city dumped 50 million gallons of raw sewage into the canal, creating a major environmental scare for Hawaii's number 1 industry.

The Health Department began testing Kahaluu's water back in September after several ocean users developed infections.

It recently began to focus on the church property, which is used a drug rehabilitation center, after continuing to get high bacterial readings in the area.

The Health Department's Clean Water Branch website says that area has one of highest concentrations statewide for the bacteria enterococci and clostridium, which are key indicators for sewage spills.

There are 4,611 colony forming units (CFUs) of enterococci for every 100 milliliters of water and 410 units of clostridium for every 100 milliliters, the Clean Water Branch said.

By contrast, places like Ala Moana and Lanikai beaches have about 10 CFUs of enterococci and 1 to 3 CFUs of clostridium.

According to sources, the raw sewage is supposed to be treated in the septic system, then sent into protective pool below the church's parking lot.

But informants have told the Health Department that the sewage often puddles up during heavy rains and flows into the nearby lagoon.

"Especially, during rain events ground water can come right to the surface and in that case all bets are off on any in ground system," said Heskett.

Church staffers declined to go on camera but told us that the high bacteria levels were due to larger cesspools in area. 

They said the church regularly bring a pumping company to regularly service its septic system.

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