Local Connection: Addressing the sewage spills

Local Connection: Addressing the sewage spills

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Aloha. Unfortunately, our worldwide reputation as a clean and healthy tourist destination was in serious jeopardy just a couple of weeks ago, when more than a million gallons of sewage flowed into the ocean from Sandy Beach to Kakaako.

Now there were daily press briefings about both of the spills and the dramatic downpours that put parts of the city underwater.

Unfortunately, those briefings, instead of effectively communicating accurate information to the public, ended up causing more confusion than clarity.

On day one, the size of the Ala Moana sewage spill was major. Half a million gallons. It was blamed on people opening sewer manhole covers, and worst of all, the waters of Waikiki Beach were being evacuated.

So after the story became national news the next day, city officials blamed poor reporting for the coverage. Then, they confessed they overestimated the size of the spill. They admitted it was the city's fault, not due to the removal of manhole covers.

They said Waikiki had not been affected by sewage, even though they didn't test the water for bacteria the day of the spill.

You know it was a bad situation made worse by poor crisis communications, and this is a weakness the city must address as we face a record year for tropical cyclones.

And for Mayor Kirk Caldwell, the lesson may be that he should be part of those briefings, which for some reason, the usually camera-friendly mayor could not fit into his schedule.

At times of crisis the chief executive of the city needs to be a visible, reassuring, and trusted presence, and to personally ensure the public is given accurate information.

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