On Hawaii’s island of Oahu, driving may soon be hazardous

Written by By Staff Writer, CNN

Travelers driving on Oahu’s major roadways must now put up with frequent water discharges, due to a massive system of wastewater treatment systems and an aging infrastructure that has plagued the island’s water supply for years.

The Oahu Water Authority, the county-run water utility in charge of the water supply and treatment, has been closed since early October due to low water pressure and capacity problems due to aging pipes.

It’s the second time in nearly three years that the OWA was closed for water quality reasons.

‘Nightmare situation’

About 60,000 residents on the island can’t drink their water right now, said John Calvetti, spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Health, and the lack of movement on the infrastructure has left a dire situation on the streets, which have been strewn with debris and rocks.

Water authorities now report that the water on some of the island’s main roadways has the rankest humic acid on record, and Calvetti said it’s due to the system’s past lack of upgrades.

“This is not only out of step with the rest of the country’s, but it’s a nightmare situation,” Calvetti said.

In 2008, OWA was shut down for 48 hours when its water system lost capacity during heavy rainfall, Calvetti said. At the time, the water was coming into wastewater treatment plants that were supposed to eventually send it to landfills. But the treatment facilities in those areas hadn’t been upgraded in the past 50 years, he said.

“The water authority wasn’t a part of any kind of sustainability project. Even with the incredibly good engineering team, it was not a part of the reform movement,” Calvetti said.

Now, all sewage systems will be updated, he said.

The OWA may reopen by the end of this year, Calvetti said. In the meantime, the water authority has been contracting private water companies to provide an emergency water supply to the island.

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