- Associated Press - Saturday, March 18, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - The city of Honolulu has been fined $100,000 for mistakes that triggered a number of sewage spills in August 2015.

Heavy rains caused sewer overflows in Kailua and Kaneohe three times in August 2015. The damage forced the city to close Waikiki Beach for days.

State health department and Honolulu officials say a broken pump at the Ala Moana Pump Station and errors by city employees led to the discharges, the largest of which sent 500,000 gallons of raw sewage into the streets.

“This was an emergency. There were mistakes done, but nothing was intentional,” said Lori Kahikina, city Environmental Services director.

The city has agreed to pay the fine and says an undisclosed number of employees were disciplined for deactivating an alarm at the pump station. City officials have also agreed to set new rules for how to handle a similar alarm in the future.

“So the procedures that were changed immediately even before we signed it was you can’t deactivate it. You need to physically call that division,” Kahikina said. “He needs to physically be at the pump station and say, ‘Yeah, I got it. You can deactivate the alarm.’ “

Over the next year, the city will install new software at its command center in order to improve communication in the event of an emergency. Officials also have a year to determine why so much rainwater is getting into the sewer system and how to address it.

Health officials say they are pleased with Honolulu’s progress managing the issues.

“Today I think they actually deserve credit,” said Stuart Yamada, of the state Department of Health’s Chief Environmental Management Division. “Since those events occurred, there’s been numerous major rainfall events, but we haven’t seen a repeat of this kind of spill or discharge.”

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