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County closer to Kealakehe wastewater upgrades

April 9, 2014 - 8:28am

Hawaii County is still a few years away from being able to offer treated water for reuse in landscaping irrigation, Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd said Tuesday evening.

Her department has been planning to upgrade the Kealakehe wastewater treatment plant to be able to treat water to an R1 designation for several years. One hurdle, she told the more than 100 people at the West Hawaii Community Forum meeting at the Makaeo Events Pavilion, is the need to first remove sludge from the treatment plant. The county has bids for that $12 million project, although some of the losing bidders may be protesting the bid award.

If she is able to award the project within the next month, as she hopes to do, construction could begin by summer and last a year to 18 months.

Only after that is completed can Environmental Management officials begin work on he $12 million upgrade project to treat effluent to the R1 standard. Another hurdle, Leithead Todd said, is getting the transmission lines in place to take the treated wastewater to the locations that would use it, such as Makaeo Park, better known as Old Kona Airport Park.

“Then we have to talk about improving capacity for (the new development at) Forest City and Laiopua,” Leithead Todd said. “I know it’s taken inordinately long.”

One final hitch, she said, has been the state’s delay in completing the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening project. The county was piggybacking on that project by having the transmission lines installed during road construction. Leithead Todd said she expected that project to begin three years ago.

Mayor Billy Kenoi and his Cabinet addressed a number of West Hawaii issues at the meeting. Kenoi, in response to an audience question, said he would be open to taking over control of Honokohau Harbor. The county last month entered into an agreement with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to take over Mauna Kea State Park on Saddle Road.

“I really believe we can do a better job” at making decisions that affect Hawaii County than people in Honolulu, who may not be familiar with the problems here, Kenoi said.

He joked that he can understand the frustration of a small business owner or fisherman who has a problem with his slip at Honokohau Harbor, who has to call DLNR in Honolulu “for a decision that might or might not be rendered in our lifetime.”

Whether the county could take over the harbor is “a very big question,” Kenoi said. “I would welcome any opportunity to take control of our assets.”

Kenoi and his Cabinet also addressed ongoing road projects, concerns about county park facilities and even the lack of a county cemetery in West Hawaii.

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