Island’s two major well-diggers have work galore

HILO — The Big Island’s two major well-drillers continue to ask for more time to complete their projects, even as new contracts are awarded to them.

But it’s not their workload that’s holding things up; it’s the difficulty getting parts and materials over from the mainland in a timely fashion, Department of Water Supply Manager/Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto told the Water Board on Tuesday. The board agreed to the recommended time extensions, agreeing the delays were outside the contractors’ control.

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The Water Board awarded two new contracts. Beylik Drilling &Pump Service Inc. was the low bidder on a $942,000 contract to repair the Keei C Deepwell and A and B boosters in South Kona. Derrick’s Well Drilling &Pump Services LLC was the low bidder on a $107,800 contract to repair the Panaewa Well A in Hilo.

Then the board gave Beylik 456 extra days to complete three ongoing projects: Parker #1 Deepwell and Lalamilo D Deepwell in South Kohala and Hualalai Deepwell in North Kona. It gave Derrick’s 290 extra days to complete the Piihonua Deepwell C in South Hilo.

Board member Nestorio Domingo, whose district includes parts of North and South Kona, seemed skeptical. Five of North Kona’s 14 wells are currently down and the area remains under voluntary 10% water conservation.

“I’m seeing a pattern here,” Domingo said. “I really have a problem with extra extensions. Maybe the contractors are taking on more than they can do in a period of time.”

Not so, said Okamoto. He said waiting on materials has contractors up and down on different jobs as they can. He said the water department keeps tabs on the contractors, making sure they’re regularly following up on the materials suppliers’ time lines.

“These pump manufacturers don’t seem to be quite as responsive as we’d like,” Okamoto said. “They have their own deadlines.”

In addition, Okamoto said, the water department has begun adding a new requirement even to projects already underway on the advice of a consultant who believes it could slow wear and tear and end up in fewer breakdowns. The required devices, positive seal check valves or back-flow preventers, keep water from draining back to the pump, which spins the rotors in the opposite direction than designed.

That drew another observation from Domingo.

“It sounds like a half-baked decision,” he said.

Water Board Chairman William Boswell, who represents North Kona, was quick to defend the agency.

“I don’t think there’s anything half-baked going on at all,” Boswell said. “This is an ongoing process. I think there’s a lot of serious effort being done by the department.”

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Okamoto said the consultant’s advice is fairly recent, and the department thinks it’s worthwhile to pay a little extra in time and money to add it to existing projects.

“I’d rather do it right,” he said.

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