KAILUA-KONA — Another North Kona well went down.
Palani Deep Well fell offline around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Nyssa Kushi, spokesperson for the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply (DWS), confirmed in an email to West Hawaii Today Wednesday.
One of the beleaguered North Kona system’s 13 water sources, Palani’s failure brings the tally of inoperative wells in the system back up to four. Throughout a saga now approaching 18 months in duration, as many as five wells and no fewer than two wells have been simultaneously malfunctioning in North Kona since January 2017.
At different points in the past, DWS has mandated a 25 percent water restriction, including times when only three wells were offline. Kushi said the department had not reinstated that order as of Wednesday afternoon on the heels of a fourth well failure.
“They’re still monitoring the situation, but at this time it appears that just the 10 percent is in effect,” said Kushi, referencing a voluntary 10 percent water conservation effort DWS has been pushing for several months.
The department brought Palani online in 2012, repairing it three times in the six years since. It was most recently returned to service just over seven months ago on Oct. 1. DWS has in the past characterized the expected lifespan of deep well equipment as typically between 5-7 years.
Officials couldn’t elaborate on the precise cause of Palani’s failure Wednesday, as equipment must be excavated and examined before such a determination can be made. However, the department did confirm the well’s motor was inoperable.
The Hawaii County Water Board assembled a working group late last year to identify potential sources of widespread, premature failure of deep well equipment in North Kona that at one point last summer required residents halt all non-essential water use, impacting businesses and construction projects.
The group, which included Water Board members, employees of DWS and members of the private sector, identified poor storage practices and overworked equipment as sources of failure and problems to be fixed.
However, the scaling back the gallons per minute pumped at well sites, which would decrease production in favor of longevity and redundancy, will only be incorporated into new well construction.
Also, as of now, DWS doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to store well equipment vertically, which is preferable to horizontal storage practices currently in place.
The department is in talks with mainland manufacturers about storing replacement parts in their facilities for a fee, but DWS Manager-Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto said the most recently quoted prices proved untenable.
Along with Palani, deep wells at Honokohau, Hualalai and Waiaha remain offline. Kushi said, however, that DWS has secured contracts for work at Honokohau and Hualalai “with repairs to start soon.”