Mayor Mufi Hannemann defends the multi-million gallon sewage dump.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann defends the multi-million gallon sewage dump.
The City diverted 48 million gallons of sewage into the Ala Wai Canal.
The City diverted 48 million gallons of sewage into the Ala Wai Canal.

(KHNL) -- Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann stands by the city's decision to divert millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Ala Wai Canal, despite all the problems it's caused.

About 48-million gallons of raw sewage poured into water starting March 24th, when the force main burst, til it was repaired days later.

"There's a lot of armchair quarterbacking going on in terms of what could've, what should've, what have you," said Hannemann. "To me, very clearly, if people wanted their wastewater and sewage system improved, they should've elected me mayor in 2000."

"This problem was definitely inherited from the previous administration," said Kathi Brown, manager of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Water Act Compliance office.

Brown said under the administration of former Mayor Jeremy Harris, the EPA urged the city to assess and understand the status of its sewer pipes, so it can do preventative care and monitoring -- find weaker pipes and repair and replace them.

"The city had a plan to do that," said Brown. "We worked with them in 1995 to develop that. We've been concerned over last 10 years that not all of those projects have been completed."

Eric Takamura, the city's director of environmental services, said that the Harris administration knew that the main that broke last month was a potential problem, but didn't go forward with plans to replace it because of "strong public opposition."

Hannemann says the city set aside $600 million the last two years to improve and upgrade the wastewater system. He says that's the same amount Harris set aside in 10 years.

"There's a different sheriff in town," said Hannemann. "This is an administration that takes its responsibilities to maintain and repair things that are underground, not just things that are above ground which is what has happened in Waikiki."

Hannemann said diverting the sewage was the "last resort." He said some speculated that the sewage could've been moved by tanker trucks, or that a temporary bypass could've been built around the break.

"We really believe these are ludicrous ideas being put forth by people who don't have the professional or engineering background, or appreciate the complexity of the city's infrastructure," said Hannemann.

He says it would've taken 110 trucks to move that amount of sewage.

"It would take approximately three weeks to physically do a bypass," said Takamura.

Brown says the EPA hasn't made a decision on whether to fine the city for this sewage spill, but Hannemann says it was indicated to him that there was a threat of additional fines because of a lack of compliance during Harris' administration.

"We're hoping that the new administration will make this a priority and step up and start working on the wastewater system in Honolulu," said Brown.