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100,000 gallons of wastewater spilled in Po‘ipu

PO‘IPU — A water reclamation plant in Po‘ipu spilled approximately 100,000 gallons of unfiltered wastewater earlier this week, according to the Hawai‘i Department of Health.

According to the department, heavy rains more than doubled the Po‘ipu Water Reclamation Plant’s water flows from 400,000 gallons per day to 835,000 gallons. While most of this flow reached its desired targets and was R1 effluent — the state’s highest grade of recycled water — about 100,000 gallons of unfiltered water overflowed onto the plant between 5 p.m. Monday and 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. No water spilled out of the facility, according to the department.

“Unfortunately, rain is uncontrollable, and the Kona low was coming through,” said Jim Huchel, operations manager at Makai Water Services, the company operating the facility. “We just got a lot of rain.”

Unfiltered recycled water can fall under one of two categories in Hawai‘i — R2 or R3. R2 recycled water, while neither filtered nor treated with UV lighting, is still disinfected and available for use under restricted circumstances where human contact is minimized. R3 recycled water is neither filtered nor disinfected, and can only be utilized where there is no potential for human contact.

Huchel says the spilled water was most likely R2 effluent, but was unable to confirm this to The Garden Island.

When the reclamation plant was first built, a series of earthen berms were placed around the facility to prevent the water from exiting onto public areas. Staff monitored the water and observed that it did not spill out of the facility, according to the department.

However, as the plant equipment is surrounded by grass and dirt, the water was able to seep into surrounding earth.

“There’s really no way to stop the water from getting in the ground,” Huchel said.

Huchel said the facility allowed the spilled water to either evaporate into the air or percolate into the ground.

Still, he emphasized that the public doesn’t need to worry about the possibility of beachfront or aquifer contamination as a result of this spill.

“There’s really zero to none, because the water that came in was extremely diluted,” he said. “And then, again, once it got on the ground, it diluted some more with the rain as it came down. Because it was treated to R2 quality, that should pose no serious harm.”

Although the spill is primarily attributed to the consistent and heavy rain on Monday, the department is currently investigating other possible causes of the event.


Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-245-0427 or
Source: The Garden Island

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