Hawai'i County Water Supply has had numerous well failures in North Kona for the past year. In early October, the situation seemed to be getting better. But as HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken explains, wells continue to fail.
The wells started failing in mid-2016. In January of this year, with 3 wells out, the Department of Water Supply issued a request for water conservation. That turned into water restriction, with no irrigation allowed and water used only for health and safety reasons, when a total of 5 wells, out of 13 in North Kona, went down. On October 3rd, the Department had good news -- both the Palani and the Hualālai Wells had been fixed, leaving only three wells out of service.
Fast forward to October thirty first. Another press release. And as Keith Okamoto, head of the County Department of Water Supply told us, it was not good news. Although one additional well had been repaired, two wells, including Hualālai, had failed.
“That one was very disappointing, because on that well repair we added additional third party reviews of the topside components. A company came in from the mainland to review our settings, everything was gone through. We still don’t know the cause of failure. “
At this point, four of the thirteen North Kona wells are not working, and the Department does not know why. The failure to pinpoint the cause of well failures has frustrated the Department and the community. Okamoto addressed why it took the Department more than two weeks to notify the public about the two additional early October well outages.
“Throughout this process we got to understand our water system better, our capabilities, to move water around in the system as needed. Even after the wells went down in October, by monitoring the tank levels, we’re very comfortable that the situation was stable and there wasn’t any adverse impact to the public. The decision to not issue a press release was all the Department of Water Supply’s decision. We felt it might cause unnecessary anxiety.”
Okamoto said the Department of Water Supply is committed to find, and fix, the problems.