Thu, Feb 12, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Grounded ship discharges raw sewage off Oahu

HAZARD State officials said the Navy didn’t warn them beforehand, while the Navy said it was legal to discharge waste to protect the crew’s health


The USS Port Royal released about 18,000 liters of raw sewage when the ship was grounded about 800m off Oahu, the Hawaiian government said on Tuesday, while warning the public to avoid the area.

The warship discharged the sewage between late Saturday and 10am on Sunday. The guided missile cruiser got stuck on a rock and sand shoal late on Thursday and wasn’t pulled free until Monday.

The state Department of Health said the Navy failed to tell it about the discharge, even though two department officials attended a meeting with Navy officials at Pearl Harbor on Sunday.

A US Pacific Fleet spokesman acknowledged the communication failure, attributing it to a mix-up.

Captain Scott Gureck said the Pacific Fleet would have informed the public and the state about the discharge if it had known about it.

Gureck said the guided missile cruiser released the sewage because the effluent would have started backing up into the ship, creating a health hazard on board.

The vessel’s holding tanks can only hold about one day’s worth of sewage.

“Some wastewater was released to protect the health and welfare of the crew,” Gureck said.

The sewage was discharged during ebb tide whenever possible so the currents would carry it away from land and recreational areas, he said.

The Port Royal generally releases sewage into the open ocean, to a barge or to shore. The ship is allowed to discharge sewage within state waters if doing so is necessary for the health and welfare of the crew, Gureck said.

The discharge, along with the recent release of partially treated wastewater from a nearby Navy sewage plant, prompted the state Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch to warn the public to avoid an area stretching from Keehi channel to Pearl Harbor channel.

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