HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The flames are out, but the problems are far from over after a huge gas pipe fire on Kapahulu Avenue that burned for more than five hours. An asphalt tilling machine used to tear up old pavement struck the line carrying synthetic natural gas on Monday night.
"It was pretty chaotic, I guess you could say. The fire was just coming up and around the asphalt truck and going up and around the telephone poles and wires and everything," said Nedrick Nakama who lives in the neighborhood.
A worker was treated and released from the hospital after falling off the machine. Another employee suffered serious burns while trying to turn off the equipment.
"Basically, the water was to cool the machine that was engulfed in the flames, and it allowed our crew to be able to find the pipes, to excavate the ground and find the pipes so we could shut off the gas," explained Alan Tang, spokesman for Hawaii Gas.
Tang said crews had to shut down three lines that fed the broken pipe, cutting off service to a handful of homes and businesses. The ruptured line was installed back in 1977, according to Hawaii Gas. City officials said the pipe was supposed to be buried at least three feet deep, but the line was just 8 inches below the surface, according to Road Builders, the contractor for the city's resurfacing project on Kapahulu Avenue.
"Each utility company has an opportunity to come out and mark on the roadway where those utilities are, but they do not give us depth. By code it should be a lot deeper than that," said Solo Pamatigan of Road Builders.
"When we excavated the different areas of the pipe, we found deeper areas so it is a surprise, but I think the key is we need to figure out why that it so," said Tang.
All the water used to douse the flames mixed with melted asphalt and diesel fuel from the machine, according to Hawaii Department of Health officials. The hazardous runoff spilled into a drain that empties into a waterway leading to the Ala Wai Canal. Crews used containment booms and absorbent pads to clean up the mess. The Department of Health said different agencies checked the area, but didn't find any impact on wildlife. They'll continue to monitor the area for the next few days.
"The sheen on the Ala Wai is non-recoverable. That can't be absorbed by the pads," said Adam Teekell, the state's on scene coordinator for the DOH. "There shouldn't be any health concerns that we're expecting at this time."
The investigation is still underway and officials aren't ready to say who is at fault for the mishap. The DOH plans to bill the responsible party for the cost of cleaning up the spill. HFD officials confirmed the estimated damage was assessed at $225,000 to the property, $30,000 to the contents and an additional $5,000 to a neighboring structure