(BIVN) – An immediate restriction on North Kona water use remains in effect today, following the failure of another water well in the area.
“We’re in an unfortunate situation where another well has gone offline,” said Water Supply manager and chief engineer Keith Okamoto, in a phone conversation with Big Island Video News. “This is the fifth well in the area. Its our Keahuolū well, which we just got back online at the end of January. So it’s only been an operation for less than five months.”
Okamoto said an assessment evaluation indicated that the problem is “down hole” and is likely with the pump unit itself. “We have a spare pump and motor and that has been mobilized to the site. A contractor is also mobilized at the site and will probably begin extracting the pump and motor first thing” Friday morning.
“We’re looking at about a week, week and a half, before we get that spare pump and motor installed and operational,” Okamoto said.
“Basically, what we’re asking our customers,” Okamoto added, “is to use water for essential needs only – for drinking, cooking, and hygiene which is bathing and flushing of toilets. Cease all irrigation, washing of cars, boats and the like.”
For the commercial accounts, Okamoto said the department is telling restaurants “serve water only upon request. Hotels same thing.”
“On the residential side, irrigation is really big,” the water supply manager said. “You would probably see the best impact by people eliminating their irrigation use for the time being.”
“If people don’t cut back their water use, we could be faced with water outages in certain areas,” Okamoto warned.
As of late Thursday afternoon, tanks were maintaining their levels, but Okamoto expected the tanks would be tested during the evening peak periods and Friday morning’s peak period.
County officials are advising the public to treat the situation in the same way they would an approaching hurricane. “If you take a look at your hurricane preparedness procedures as it relates to water,” Okamoto said, “you could use that in this incident. Have a gallon of water per day, per person, available. And that’s for drinking, cooking, hygiene. If you’re able to store water – in your bathtub, spare rubbish containers, gallon jugs – for toilet flushing use.”
The situation in North Kona has been teetering on the edge of an emergency for months, as repair work on four wells – Hualālai Deepwell, Keōpū Deepwell, Palani Deepwell, and the Wai’aha Deepwell – necessitated a mandatory 25% percent water restriction for the North Kona area.
The failure of the fifth well pushed Kona into a full emergency.
“Man, I tell you, this is something else,” Okamoto said. “But, we prepared contingency plans in event a larger capacity well goes offline. So, we’re not in the worst case scenario situation, knock on wood.”
“Our guys have done a terrific job of moving water around in the system, re configuring the system, and trying to get some of the Kahaluu water further north and further mauka,” Okamoto said.