Slow-moving landslide threatens Nuuanu homes

EXCLUSIVE: Landslide threatens Nuuanu homes
Published: Aug. 26, 2016 at 2:57 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 26, 2016 at 4:00 PM HST
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Image: Hawaii News Now
Image: Hawaii News Now
Eugene Garret (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Eugene Garret (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Image: Hawaii News Now
Image: Hawaii News Now
Woody Chock (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Woody Chock (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Image: Hawaii News Now
Image: Hawaii News Now

NUUANU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents call it a disaster in slow motion.

Over the past three years, the hillside above three Nuuanu homes has slowly collapsed, sending thousands of tons of dirt, boulders and trees toward their backyards.

Resident Eugene Garrett said the problem started in 2013, when the city came to fix a deteriorating sewer line.

Later inspections by the city found blockages and cracks in the pipes. Shortly after that, a neighbor reported that his land was beginning to slide, Garrett said.  And by January 2016, a hill close to the sewer line collapsed, leaving a 15-foot tall cliff in its wake, he said.

Garrett said the situation is now creating a public health hazard for the neighborhood.

"There's three homes up there, one home has a young couple with two young children. The house could fall any day," he said. "It's gotten to the point where whatever happens, happens. If this house is going to end up the street in six months, there's nothing more I can do."

But the city disputes that it's to blame for the shifting earth.

"The city has determined that the soil shifting was not caused by any leak from the city's sewer line," city spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke said, in a statement.  "We believe the shifting soil caused damage to the pipes, not the other way around."

The city said experts are now examining the cause of the erosion and plans to meet with homeowners once the study is completed.

Woody Chock, who has lived in the neighborhood for four decades, said there hadn't been a significant landslide or sinkhole in the area until this happened.

"Whenever it rains, all the mud comes sweeping down here and sooner or later I was told that the whole mountain is going to collapse on these houses," Chock said.

Garrett worries that all of the debris, boulders and trees are headed downhill into his home.

"At many points, my bedroom walls were caving in. I've been sleeping in the front of the house in the living room for over eight months," he said.

He said he's spent $100,000 -- most of his life savings -- to haul out dirt and cut down trees, only to see more debris piling up toward his home. He asked the city for help but got no commitments.

Garrett said he's convinced the city sewer line is the cause. A recent inspection by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply found sewage in the mud, according to a recent report by Honolulu civil defense inspectors.

Garrett said a water quality expert that he hired found moderate signs of fecal matter in the debris.

"The mud and sewage water is flowing right past my garage and I have to drive through it every day," said Chock.

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