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Bathroom wipes causing clogs in isle sewer system

By June Watanabe

LAST UPDATED: 8:40 p.m. HST, Sep 26, 2013

Question: I read the story in Monday’s Star-Advertiser — — about how those pre-moistened bathroom wipes are clogging the sewers across the mainland and wonder, has this been a problem for Honolulu?

Answer: Yes, it has.

So much so that city Department of Environmental Services is looking to see if it can regulate what actually goes into the sewer system.

Four months ago, the department’s Collection System Maintenance Division assigned “a consultant to review other municipality ordinances and regulations in an effort to prohibit all materials other than toilet paper from entering into the sewage system,” said spokesman Markus Owens.

Meanwhile, don’t think it’s OK to flush anything down a toilet.

“The only items that should be flushed down the toilet are toilet paper and what comes out of you,” Owens said. “Despite what labeling may suggest, nothing else should be deposited in a toilet.”

The problem, as reported, is that “flushable” wipes do not break down in the sewer system and can become lodged in pipes, eventually blocking the line and causing a sewer overflow or spill, he said.

“Our crews have responded to trouble calls in residential areas and found these wipes in the system,” Owens said. “These wipes also contribute to recurring problems at our pumping stations. They do not break down and create additional work for our crews who have to repeatedly remove them on a monthly or weekly basis.”

If the wipes make it to the sewage treatment plants, they must be extracted and transported to the landfill, he said.

It’s not only these wipes that don’t break down.

“Dental floss, diapers, sanitary napkins and hand towels also regularly lead to blockages in our system,” Owens said. Flushing of all these types of materials has resulted in “continuous problems that divert personnel, who would better serve our primary mission of maintaining our facilities.”

Instead of dumping them in the toilet, just place them in a plastic bag and put them in the trash can, where they then can be burned at the HPOWER plant to produce electricity, he said.

Question: Can you provide the English version to “Hawaii Pono‘i”?

Answer: Here is the translation of Hawaii’s state song, which was written by King David Kalakaua in 1874, and put to music by Capt. Henri Berger, the king’s royal bandmaster.

Hawai‘i pono‘i (Hawaii’s own true sons)
Nana i kou mo‘i (Be loyal to your chief)
Ka lani ali‘i (Your country’s liege and lord)
Ke ali‘i (The chief)

Hui (Chorus)
Makua lani e (Royal father)
Kamehameha e (Kamehameha)
Na kaua e pale (Shall defend in war)
Me ka ihe (With spears)

Hawai’i pono‘i (Hawaii’s own true sons)
Nana i na ali‘i (Look to your chief)
Na pua muli kou (Those chiefs of younger birth)
Na poki‘i (Younger descent)

Hawai‘i pono‘i (Hawaii’s own true sons)
E ka lahui e (People of loyal heart)
‘O kau hana nui (The only duty lies)
E u ie (List and abide)


To Bert, for his kind assistance when my tire blew out on the Pali Highway last month and I pulled into Akamu Place. Mahalo also to the mother and daughter who invited me to their home if I needed anything. Your compassion and caring made a trying situation less stressful. — Liz

Write to “Kokua Line” at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@ Not every question can be answered.

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