After-hours sewage spill on DHHL land leaves residents in lurch

After-hours sewage spill on DHHL land leaves residents in lurch
(Image: Yosuke Jo)
(Image: Yosuke Jo)
(Image: Yosuke Jo)
(Image: Yosuke Jo)

WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Sunday night, Yosuke Jo smelled a foul stench wafting into his home. He followed it back to a sewer manhole on the street fronting his Waimanalo home.

"My whole block smelled rancid. My whole house smelled rancid. You could see the feces running down the road," he said.

The raw sewage increased from trickle to tide, flowed downhill and around the block, disappearing down a storm drain.

"It was like a river. I can't estimate how many gallons were going into the storm drain," Jo said.

He called the city's Environmental Services Department, and was told workers couldn't do anything because the sewer line is on state Department of Hawaiian Homelands property.

That answer shocked Jo.

"I figured they should at least come there and secure the area and transfer over the responsibilities to DHHL when they can," he said.

City Environmental Services Director Lori Kahikina said the sewer lines in the homestead must be maintained by Hawaiian Homelands. She said the city can't respond to calls for emergencies on DHHL property because it would compromise the city's ability to take care of other emergencies.

"We have one trouble call crew that services the entire island at night -- after hours. If we're servicing the private situations, anyone else calls us, we're vulnerable," she said.

DHHL did send a contractor to help, who called it a volatile situation.

Jo believes the city should have gotten involved.

"It's very upsetting that the sewage fee goes to them. not DHHL," he said.

But Kahikina said DHHL homesteaders need to realize their sewer fees don't pay for the DHHL sewer lines in their neighborhoods. "It connects to us and then it goes to our treatment plant where we treat the sewage. That's where their fees are going to," she said.

Jo, though, said the situation was potentially dangerous. The sewage leak happened near an elementary school, and children were warned not to step in the sewage.

"If somebody had an open wound something tragic could have happened," he said.

On Wednesday, the contractor removed the blockage in the eight-inch line.  DHHL confirmed the sewer line is its responsibility. It hopes to eventually have a 24-hour hotline for homesteaders to call.

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