Hawaii County’s Department of Water Supply doesn’t track which companies use its commercial fill spigots, leading to concerns in the Hawaiian Ocean View Estates community about a possible water-hauling monopoly.
The county’s policy allows residents or businesses to apply for the commercial fill spigots on a first-come, first-served basis, spokeswoman Kanani Aton said Monday. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, apply in person, be current on any water payments, show a current, valid picture identification and pay about $530 in fees up front.
The county doesn’t ask which company will use the spigot, a situation Ocean View residents said has ended in one water hauling company having access to several, if not most, of the 10 spigots the county opened this year. Several residents and business owners declined to speak on the record because of fears of reprisal, but said they were also concerned because the water rates had not dropped, and it appeared one company was keeping the rates higher by monopolizing the spigots.
DWS officials provided West Hawaii Today with a list of the successful spigot applicants. Three of the 10 commercial spigot recipients have the same last name. A message left for Casey Santana, the only one of the three listed in the phone book, was not returned as of press time Tuesday. Santana’s phone number is the same one listed for Pure Hawaiian Water, a Naalehu hauling company.
Aton said people may not sell or sublet a standpipe to someone else once they are granted a commercial water spigot.
Aton said on May 15, the day the department accepted the applications, more than 10 people were standing in line outside the office before the doors opened.
“The Department of Water Supply was concerned with broad and fair dissemination of information to as many interested applicants as possible,” Aton added in an email to West Hawaii Today. “To be fair, the Department of Water Supply distributed meter sign-up information in local newspaper articles and advertisements, online, and at community meetings regarding standpipe account sign-up.”
The advertisement ran in West Hawaii Today and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald May 8. The community meeting, which more than 30 people attended, was May 11, Aton said.
The short time frame between notification and the application deadline was another concern community members voiced this week.
Aton said the department has heard from people, as far back as the well planning process, who believed the well opening would reduce water-hauling rates. The department sells water to the haulers at the same price as residential cusomers.
“While private customers may charge variant rates to provide hauling and/or delivery services, the Department of Water Supply has no oversight to these rates,” she wrote.