Kailua Bay still closed till test results deem safe

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KAILUA-KONA — Kailua Bay will remain closed to water activities for the rest of the week, although a spill caused by a sewer pipe rupture Monday has been stopped.

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KAILUA-KONA — Kailua Bay will remain closed to water activities for the rest of the week, although a spill caused by a sewer pipe rupture Monday has been stopped.

The leak occurred on Palani Road fronting King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Crews discovered the 55-year-old, 6-inch cast iron pipe had corroded, causing the break. The bay remains closed from Kamakahonu Beach to Hulihee Palace to 1,000 feet offshore until health authorities are sure that the waters are safe for swimming and fishing, the Department of Environmental Management said on Wednesday.

Officials said they don’t have an estimate on the amount of leakage, but DEM has submitted water sampling test results to the State Department of Health.

DOH is mandating that warning signs remain in place until it determines that the waters are safe.

“The public will be kept informed on when it is safe to go back into the water,” DEM Director William Kucharski said.

The pipe crack has also led the Kim administration to look into replacing the aging infrastructure, something that could cost millions of dollars.

Kucharski said despite the pipe’s age, a pipe is still good if it doesn’t leak. However, he added, the piping system is old and susceptible to corrosion. He said he’s been talking with Mayor Harry Kim about trying to get the systems updated and upgraded.

“Everyone knows the systems are old, but it’s been put off for years,” Kucharski said, adding that the piping on Alii Drive may be the oldest sewer system on the island.

Kucharski said the department is also working with the EPA, looking at ways to upgrade and modernize the systems.

Kim added the EPA has offered to bid out the evaluation and planning for the project on the county’s behalf.

“It’s a long-term process,” Kucharski said.

The cost, Kucharski said, could be in the millions of dollars. But he added he has the support of council members and the mayor. When the time comes to make the repairs, the county will find the money somewhere.

While the piping on Alii Drive is old, Kim said, it is part of the same old system that includes Hilo.

“This is a major, major problem to tell you the truth,” Kim said. “This brings to light something we have to do.”

The mayor added he didn’t want to mislead anyone, but an evaluation and planning is necessary for the entire island.

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Kucharski will meet with Kim next week and a public meeting will be scheduled.

“The burden now comes, where do you find the money?” Kim asked. “First thing we’ll look for is grants.”

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