Grounded warship discharged raw sewage off Oahu
By Audrey Mcavoy
HONOLULU — The USS Port Royal discharged about 5,000 gallons of raw sewage when the warship was grounded a half-mile off Oahu, the state said Tuesday while warning the public to avoid the area.
The ship released the sewage between late Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. The guided missile cruiser got stuck on a rock and sand shoal late 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 U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman acknowledged the communication failure, attributing it to a mix-up.
Capt. 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.