Crews Suit Up to Clean Canal

They wore suits that looked like they could walk on the moon.

Instead, they were cleaning debris from the Ala Wai Canal.

"The material that came down the same time the city was dumping up to about 50 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai, so we wanna to be cautious and be able to protect the operators," said Peter Young, chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The hazardous material crews scooped up the debris by heavy equipment machine, and by hand from two spots -- a trap set up underneath the Ala Moana bridge, and the moorings in front of the Hawaii Prince Hotel.

"I'm glad to see it getting cleaned out," said Jack Scarry, a Waikiki resident. "I live in the neighborhood and I like to walk around the marina and enjoy the sunset and things so it's good to have it cleaned and not stinky."

Young said the clean up is to "ensure the health and well-being" of those in the Ala Wai Harbor area.

He said cleaning debris is normally done three to four times a year, at a cost of about $6,000.

He said this is the 5th time debris is being pulled out since the recent heavy rains, and because of the debris is contaminated, this job is costing about $50,000.

"This is a special type of cleaning because we're concerned about the potential raw sewage that's in and amongst the material that's here," said Young.

The contractors hired to do the cleanup specialize in moving hazardous materials.

They wore rubber gloves, boots, and masks.

Each pile of debris is sprayed with a disinfectant, then dumped into a plastic-lined container.

Young hopes cleaning the debris also helps clean the water.

"There's raw sewage that's intermingled here, and it attach itself to the material, and we need to get that out of the harbor," said Young. "Let's let the water flush everything else out as it typically does."

"I hope we get it cleaned up so people can enjoy the water again," said Scarry. This cleanup should be done by Monday.

In an agreement between the state, city and health officials, all the debris will be taken to the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.