KAILUA-KONA — The Hawaii County Department of Water Supply is poised to salvage the Waiaha Deep Well after a cable snapped during a botched extraction at the site last summer, sending equipment plummeting into the earth and knocking the water source offline indefinitely.
Contractor Derrick’s Well Drilling and Pump Services fished out pipe assembly and other equipment “that could be safely removed” in early April, DWS spokeswoman Nyssa Kushi wrote in an email to West Hawaii Today.
The department, however, chose to abandon the lost pump and motor, as more extraction attempts risked further damage to the well. Kushi said a video survey showed the well casing was in tact and that adequate space remained to install new deep well equipment without extracting the old pump and motor.
The decision should afford Waiaha a more timely return to service the North Kona community, which remains down four of its 14 area water sources.
Cost was also a consideration for the department. Keith Okamoto, DWS manager and chief-engineer, in an interview with WHT earlier this year estimated the price of digging a new well at Waiaha in the neighborhood of $1 million.
“At this time, there are no plans for a new well,” Kushi wrote.
Waiaha will not produce the same output as it did previously, with capacity projected to drop from 1,400 gallons per minute (gpm) to 1,000 gpm. This is because DWS plans to use alternate pump and motor parts already on-island.
However, Kushi wrote that using these parts is a time saving strategy and “…will help expedite (Waiaha’s) return to service by eliminating the need for ordering, fabrication and delivery of new parts.”
As to possible contamination from deep well equipment floating around in perpetuity in the underground water source, DWS said there’s nothing for the public to fear.
“No adverse impact to water quality is expected, as all materials for the pump and motor assemblies are approved for potable water use,” Kushi wrote. “Future project specifications will include tasks to confirm the well can be used adequately in the future.”
“Water quality monitoring is regularly conducted to ensure full compliance with EPA and Department of Health Safe Drinking Water requirements,” she added.
The department hasn’t spent any money in the subsequent extraction and survey processes since the initial cable break in the summer of 2017, Kushi wrote.
Derrick’s would have been potentially liable to cover the cost of a new well at Waiaha had one proven necessary, as that company was responsible for the cable break. As to whether DWS is pursuing any civil action or other financial remedy from its frequent business partner, Derrick’s, the department declined to say.
“DWS is currently working with Derrick’s Well Drilling and Pump Services, and cannot comment further on these matters at this time,” Kushi wrote.
The rest of North Kona
For now, four deep wells, including Waiaha, remain offline in North Kona. DWS has noted for weeks that while there remains only a 10 percent voluntary water conservation effort in place throughout the region, the department will resort to a 25 percent mandatory restriction if conservation efforts don’t keep water tanks adequately full.
DWS implemented a 25 percent restriction for much of last year, including during periods of time when only three wells were simultaneously inoperative.
Aside from Waiaha, deep wells at Honokohau, Hualalai and Palani remain silent. A replacement motor for Honokohau is on-island, Kushi said, while a manufacturer is scheduled to ship a pump from the mainland no later than mid-August.
Installation will begin subsequently, making Honokohau the deep well most likely to return to service first.
Contractors have finished well alignment inspections and electrical work at Hualalai, and DWS has ordered a pump and motor from a mainland manufacturer, which have yet to be fabricated. Other necessary parts also have yet to be delivered, Kushi wrote.
The Palani Deep Well is pulling up the rear, as assessments and investigations remain active. Kushi said the department will not schedule any repairs until its evaluation is completed.