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Hawaii water utility not yet planning Puna service repairs

August 12, 2019

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — A Hawaii water utility has no current plans to restore service to two areas damaged by the Kilauea volcano, officials said.

The Hawaii County Department of Water Supply is not considering restoration of water service to Kapoho and the area around Pohoiki, The Hawaii Herald-Tribune reported Sunday.

The department is not discounting possible future restoration of service in Lower Puna, the Big Island area that lost more than 700 homes during the 2018 volcanic eruption, said chief engineer Keith Okamoto.

The department estimated $38.4 million in costs to replace the water system, he said.

“We’re not shutting the door at all at this point, we’re just saying at this time, we don’t have immediate plans to restore infrastructure in the area,” Okamoto said.

Okamoto told county council members last week that restoration efforts would be cost prohibitive and current conditions are unsuitable for water infrastructure repairs.

The Kapoho well, chlorination and control building were covered by lava and more than 14 miles (23 kilometers) of waterline was rendered unusable, he said.

Two 100,000-gallon (378,530-liter) concrete reservoirs at Lanipuna Gardens and Kapoho are still standing, but isolated by lava. Gaskets on underground pipes can only handle temperatures up to about 200 degrees (93 Celsius), Okamoto said.

“Our understanding is lava’s a bit hotter than that,” he said. “We know that the gaskets get compromised and there’s serious leakage, and basically you can’t operate the water system under those conditions.”

Future repair plans would depend on funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and final recovery plans, he said.

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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