(BIVN) – State officials have confirmed they are close to a short-term fix for the water outage at the popular Hāpuna Beach State Recreation area, but a long-term solution has yet to be identified.
Following recent media reports – and a back and forth between State officials at a Senate hearing – the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a lengthy news release, with video, explaining the situation.
From the Hawaiʻi DLNR:
Water service at this state recreation area has been off and on more than three-dozen times since 2018, due to repeated breaks in its underground lines. The DLNR Division of State Parks (DSP) decided, after spending a lot of time and money trying to remedy chronic leaks, it needed to look at a more long-term fix rather than the band-aid fixes employed over the past five years.”
When David Arnado, the new DSP Hawai‘i District Superintendent began work four-months ago he stepped into the fire, or in this case the water. DSP brings water into the park, from a Hawai‘i County line, for restrooms, showers, and drinking. Hāpuna is equally popular with residents and visitors. Not unexpectedly, the shut-down of the system last October created a “water-storm” of complaints, criticism, and comments.
“There have been 41 attempts at correcting issues with leaks,” Arnado commented during a recent walk around the park. “Until last fall we cut around the leaks and spliced the pipes back together. Each fix would last a month or two before a new leak sprung. With the last leak that required the current, extended shutdown, the fix lasted two or three seconds.”
At the park’s entrance, orange fencing surrounds the location of the final straw in this saga; a crumbling two-foot-wide hole in the asphalt. Arnado explained, “We isolated this leak at the top of the park and the hole was the first sign. You can’t see a leaky pipe at this location, so water migrated from a broken or compromised pipe somewhere nearby. The decision was made, that after spending a lot of time and money trying to remedy chronic leaks, we needed to look at a more feasible option.”
A short-term fix involves running water lines on the ground to provide water at two sets of restrooms on the beach and showers there. This solution has some challenges, including protecting the pipe during high surf.
The short-term fix is expected to be in place within a few months. DSP is also evaluating additional quick fixes to the existing system, but with no assurances of how long that will last. The longer-term, much costlier fix is predicted not to be finished at least until the end of 2024. Engineering studies have begun, and DSP is making sure the final design of a new system, fully analyzes what caused repeated failures of the current system, installed in 2009. The legislature has allocated approximately $3 million to reconstruction the entire system. Those funds were released last year.
Arnado added, “Engineers need to determine the mode of the waterline failure, remedies, and types of piping. We have to look at everything, so it doesn’t continue happening. Then we’ll get a rough cost estimate and begin the required procurement process which includes the results of the investigation, bid document preparation, contractor solicitations, and hopefully construction beginning in about a year.” The process includes many checks and balances, including ensuring it is compliant with Hawai‘i Dept. of Health regulations.
An open hole at the edge of Hāpuna’s long, wide beach provides evidence of several other breaks. Splices in the pipe are evident and if one notices, there are two pipes visible. The second one is for the park’s non-potable irrigation water, which can’t be used for people. “The irrigation line is made of the same material, but it hasn’t had as many problems,” Arnado said.
“We understand everyone’s frustration and I try to help them understand. I live in the community, and I hear from visitors and my neighbors. People want a fast fix and that makes it hard to understand the process. About half are satisfied with my explanation and the other half want to talk to someone above me,” he added.
That would be DSP Administrator Curt Cottrell, who is also well-aware of boiling frustration at Hāpuna. “We are fully committed and working as fast as we can to restore potable water service to Hāpuna,” Cottrell said.