Cut red tape, but safety first: New Environmental Management director balks at Alii Drive sewer plan

Hawaii County residents who have expressed concern that Mayor Mitch Roth would push a pro-development agenda when he took office may have been reassured last week when his Environmental Management director — who still awaits council confirmation — delayed what seemed a formality accepting a sewer line because he thinks it could be a public health hazard.

Roth, in campaign promises, vowed to “reduce government red tape and work to streamline the permit process” within his first 100 days in office. But at least one in his Cabinet isn’t going to sacrifice health and safety.

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At issue is a proposed 19-unit, single-family subdivision on the mauka side of Alii Drive across from the Alohi Kai Subdivision and Kamoa Point. The project, which will offer houses ranging between 5,240 and 10,177 square feet, is being developed by Larry Smith of Royal Alii LLC.

The subdivision received its special management area permit in 2006, and in 2016, received a five-year extension for development. On Wednesday, the council’s Regenerative Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management Committee postponed Royal Alii’s application to have a sewer lateral approved connecting the Alii Drive public sewer main to service two parcels within the subdivision.

The sewer lateral has already been installed at the developer’s expense and the Department of Environmental Management under a prior administration had recommended approval. Resolution 23 gives the developer half of all money for sewer charges collected by the county from other properties, if any, that will connect to the extension, up to the cost of the lateral.

“My limited understanding of this is it’s a dedication of a sewer lateral that’s already constructed, inspected and in place,” said Ed Rapoza, representing Smith. “It’s already been constructed and done. This is a mere formality in dedicating an easement of what’s been installed.”

But Environmental Management Director Ramzi Mansour, whose council confirmation is expected later this month, asked the committee to delay approval because he thinks the lateral pipe is too small.

“What they propose, an 8-inch main to existing 6-inch lateral will create a bottleneck and could create a backflow,” Mansour said. “The same line should be extended, not connected to a 6-inch lateral.”

In addition, Mansour said, a 6-inch lateral isn’t sufficient to service 19 homes.

“Are you saying that’s supposed to be 8-inch not 6-inch all the way through?” Rapoza asked. “My understanding was 6-inch was approved.”

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Kohala Councilman Tim Richards, chairman of the committee, asked that the resolution be postponed until Jan. 19.

“There seems to be a little bit of an issue,” Richards said.

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