HILO, Hawaii – The water in Puhi Bay was off limits to swimming, boating and fishing on Friday, after the release of partially treated wastewater from the Hilo Wastewater Treatment Plant.
An alert sent out to media from the Department of Environmental Management said an electrical failure caused a “treatment bypass” of 71,660 gallons. The bypass occurred between 7:42 p.m. and 8:25 p.m. on Thursday night (Sept. 26)
The wastewater had already gone through a primary, disinfecting treatment before bypassing a secondary treatment, known as a “Trickling Filter/Solids contact process”.
The bypass stopped when a redundant electrical system was employed, restoring power to the system.
Signs went up at Puhi Bay and Palekai warning beachgoers that the waters were contaminated, as per Hawaii State Department of Health mandate. “While the disinfection system was NOT interrupted during the partial electrical outage at the facility,” wrote the county, “the Wastewater Division will be sampling shoreline waters on a daily basis in order to confirm that the process bypass has not resulted in increased bacteria levels at the shoreline.”
“As soon as the test results indicate it is safe to re-open the shoreline areas, the signs will be removed and the public notified,” said Environmental Management.
“PLEASE STAY OUT OF THE WATER” warned the Keaukaha Community Association through its Facebook page. “FOR THE SAKE OF SAFETY!!!. WE KNOW WE ALWAYS GET THE S#&T END OF THE STICK…BUT WE WILL GET TO THE BOTTOM AS TO WHY THESE MISHAPS OCCUR AND KEAUKAHA COMMUNITY SUFFERS.”
The Wastewater Division said it is currently in the process of troubleshooting the electrical system in order that the cause of the problem resulting in the loss of electrical power to the facility can be corrected.
In August, 7,600 gallons of wastewater was discharged into the ocean from the Papaikou Wastewater Treatment Plant, resulting in the temporary closure of the shoreline area near the plant.