Jul 18, 2016
New Technology Helps Clean Honolulu's Waterways
With the help of new debris-collecting technology, the waters within Kewalo Harbor are getting a makeover.
Earlier this month, a state-of-the-art water skimmer was installed at the harbor to collect marine debris and oil that would otherwise make its way into our beloved waterways and fester in the sea. While the skimmer is doing its part to create cleaner oceans, it represents just one way the Harbor is being revitalized.
According to Ward Village Senior Vice President Todd Apo, many of the 80 locally owned business in Kewalo Harbor have struggled with the growing amount of trash clogging up the waters. After conducting some research, Ward Village located a Marina Trash Skimmer that would effectively suck up floating debris, 24 hours a day, moving more than 300 gallons of water a minute, creating a healthier harbor for all of the city to enjoy.
Kewalo harbor is located just across the street from Ward Village. Our master plan for the area doesn't just encompass our 60 acres alone. We understand how important the harbor and the beach community is to the city, so we wanted to reach out and do our part to make the entire area a better place. This technology is an affordable and environmentally friendly solution to target localized ocean pollution and we are proud to say that, to our knowledge, this trash skimmer is the first to be installed in a small boat harbor in the state of Hawai'i... It's our hope that this will provide a better experience for all who use Kewalo Harbor while also protecting our island's precious natural resources.
Ward Village has also worked with the harbor to install a new lifeguard station, better lighting, and new security gates, landscaping, dock restoration, and restrooms, showing just how committed we are to improving the harbor and its surrounding communities in a holistic and sustainable manner.
While the new skimmer is diligently doing its part to clean the harbor, a larger, more complex version of the skimmer, known as the Trash Water Wheel, might be in store for Honolulu in the future. According to Kahi Pacarro of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, the Ala Wai canal is responsible for spewing much of the trash and debris we find in the waters off the city, but with the help of technological advancements, we can deter much of that trash from entering our oceans. "We have a tangible, working solution at our disposal right now. It's called the Trash Water Wheel and Baltimore already has one in place. This technology actually exists and we want to bring it to the Ala Wai Harbor.
Since it was put to work in Baltimore's Waterfront in 2014, The Trash Water Wheel (which, of course, runs partially on solar power) has tirelessly worked to sift through a mind-numbing amount waste, collecting nearly half a million plastic water bottles, 320,000 Styrofoam containers, and an astonishing seven million cigarette butts. Not only does the Trash Water Wheel do the dirty work, it also serves as a tourist attraction—a video of the Water Wheel has more than 1 million views on YouTube—and visual reminder of the very real implications that poor waste disposal has on our environment.
Right about now, you're probably asking yourself how this massive machine actually works. Here's the gist, according to the Baltimore Harbor: "The river's current provides power to turn the water wheel, which lifts trash and debris from the water and deposits it into a dumpster barge. When there isn't enough water current, a solar panel array provides additional power to keep the machine running. When the dumpster is full, it's towed away by boat, and a new dumpster is put in place. Voilà!"
So how does Honolulu become the next city to tackle trash in its waterways with this new tech? First, a feasibility study—which already has the financial support of both the city and the state—needs to be conducted. But if the conclusions of the study prove favorable, Pacarro believes that we could see the Trash Water Wheel deployed in the Ala Wai as early as next summer.
"This is going to change the face of the Ala Wai by not only sweeping the water of waste, but I think it will serve as a reminder of us all to be more conscious consumers. I think we're seeing a shift in public opinion and people are embracing ideas like this more. I'm really excited for the future."
Whether it's the Marina Trash Skimmer already in place in Kewalo Harbor or the potentially forthcoming Trash Water Wheel for the Ala Wai, it's clear that new advances in tech, coupled with the determination of the stewards of the city, are already making Honolulu a better place to call home.
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