EXCLUSIVE: City cites Windward church for discharging pollutants

KAHALUU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city has ordered a Kahaluu church to remove several pipes that were discharging untreated gray water into a nearby waterway.

But the pastor said that none of the pipes contained raw sewage and that his church is not responsible for the high bacterial counts in the Kahaluu lagoon.

"None of it was waste water. They did look into our septic system and it is approved," said Windward Baptist Church's Pastor Kevin Akana, noting that the high bacterial counts were in the lagoon long before the church moved to its current location 15 years ago.

"Especially when it rains heavily, when there's heavy downpour, the bacterial level rises. This is not new."

The city probe comes after the state has opened a separate investigation into the Windward Baptist Church. The state is looking at whether the church is one of several major contributors to the contaminated water.

Hawaii News Now earlier reported that the bacterial counts near the church are among the highest in the state, exceeding counts in the Ala Wai Canal when the city dumped 50 million gallons of raw sewage eight years ago.

The state investigation is still pending and Health Department inspectors recently turned their probe over their enforcement branch.

Akana says his small church can in no way generate those kinds of high bacterial readings. He said the church's septic system is working correctly, has not overflowed and is drained regularly by a pumping service.

The Windward Baptist Church is also home to a drug rehab center, which houses about 20 people. Akana said the pipes cited by the city didn't carried wash water -- or water used for showers -- into the lagoon.

The pipes also drained puddles that formed in the church's parking lots after heavy rains.

He said the city has ordered the church to remove the pipes or hook them up to its septic system.

When asked why the lagoon's counts were so high, Akana said the waterway contains contaminants from a dredging project that was conducted long ago.

"There's also the sewage treatment plant in the area, when there's heavy rains it overflows," he added.

This is not the first citation issued by the city.

In 2009, Department of Planning and Permitting issued a notice of violation after receiving reports that eight unrelated people were occupying the drug rehab center.

City law only allows five unrelated people living in a dwelling and that the church did not have a conditional use permit for a group living facility.

The violation was later corrected and a follow-up inspection found just five men living on the property, according to the DPP.

Courtesy of KHON2

Share your thoughts here...