Monday | November 20, 2017
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HILO — Almost 10 years after it was constructed, a $1.9 million water tank still sits unused at the corner of Komohana and Kawailani streets in Hilo, as contractors try to repair yet another problem with the ill-fated project.

Water used to pond on the top. Now the liner and sealing coat on the sides are blistering.

The county had sued and then settled a lawsuit in 2011 with consultant Wesley R. Segawa & Associates, after paying Segawa $109,300 to design the tank and assist the Hawaii County Water Board during the bidding and construction process. The tank, completed in 2004, was paid for with customer fees.

As part of the settlement, Segawa had the roof structure and top coat repaired at its own unspecified cost. The repairs were inspected and approved by both the county and the state Department of Health almost a year ago, Segawa’s attorney, Randall K. Schmidt, told West Hawaii Today on Tuesday.

But now, a new problem has cropped up, leading the Water Board to direct general contractor Jas. W. Glover to drain the tank, pull the liner and locate any leaks.

Glover Vice President Byron Fujimoto, in a letter written Friday to Department of Water Supply Manager Antonio Quirino, said the company is working up a cost estimate that also includes cleaning, painting and testing the “new” tank, removing the old tank, replacing and painting fences and fixing the landscaping.

Fujimoto said the entire project could be finished in 157 days, barring unforeseen circumstances. He said he’d be able to provide an estimate in two weeks.

“There are some unknown issues that may arise since the system has been sitting for so long,” Fujimoto said in the letter.

Schmidt said Segawa has continued consulting on the issues, although his client is not at fault for any of the new problems. Problems include blistering of the inner lining and side walls, a problem that may be due either to an inferior sealant coating or to a sealant incorrectly applied, Schmidt said.

New costs are likely to be borne by the sealant manufacturer or the contractor’s insurance company — the tank is still under warranty, he added.

The Water Board on Tuesday, at the urging of Hilo board member Susan Lee Loy, put the project on its agenda to try to push some action on the tank. The board tackled the details in an executive session, with the general consensus being “just get it done,” said spokeswoman Kanani Aton.

That doesn’t mean the board is approving a blank check. Assistant Corporation Counsel Katherine Garson said the approval is conceptual, and any costs would have to come back to the board for further review.

“I think we have a good understanding that we all want this project done,” Quirino told the board. “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we are moving toward that light.”