Storm, flooding damage water facilities
Two water facilities in Iao Valley are out of service and production is low at a treatment plant in Lahaina following heavy rain and flooding last week, Department of Water Supply Director Dave Taylor said Monday.
The department asked residents in Wailuku, Kahului and Lahaina to continue conserving water for an indefinite period of time while work is done to repair the damaged facilities.
“We’re not asking for dramatic cutbacks,” Taylor said. “If people can try to conserve 10 percent, we’d appreciate it.”
Meanwhile, the boil-water advisory was lifted Monday for Iao Valley and Main Street customers, who had been under the alert while the department took extra precautions to flush and chlorinate those areas over the weekend.
Taylor said that the department hopes to have the Lahaina treatment plant “completely back to normal next week or so,” but facilities in and near Iao – a groundwater source tunnel and a surface water treatment plant – will take longer to fix.
“We’re working on it as we speak,” Taylor said. “It’s too difficult to assess because it’s all buried. It’s hard to know how extensive the blockages are.”
Fed by torrential downpours Sept. 13, the fast-rising Wailuku River forced evacuations, flooded homes, trashed park
facilities and carried large vehicles and boulders downstream. Iao Valley residents were without water for about 24 hours after the flooding, said Taylor, who also lives in the valley. In addition, the river completely wiped out the pipeline leading from the groundwater source tunnel at Kepaniwai Park to the treatment plant. The pipeline was 250 feet long and 12 inches in diameter, Taylor said.
When the line broke, stream water got into the system, and some residents, including Taylor, had dirty water coming from their faucets. After the department found muddy water in one of its Iao tanks, it immediately shut off the valve and issued a boil-water notice Wednesday, Taylor said. On Friday, department spokeswoman Jan Inouye-Ogata said that tests showed no contamination.
As for the Iao surface water treatment plant, Taylor said it’s usually served by a Wailuku Water Co. diversion, but this is also out of service due to rubble in the stream. The plant is located at the fork that divides Iao Valley Road and West Alu Road.
Taylor said that diversions will have to be cleaned out and the pipeline will have to be rebuilt, which is complicated because the stream bank where the pipe once sat “no longer exists.”
“It got completely washed away along with the pipe,” he explained.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Wailuku River stream monitor recorded the river flowing at 4,200 cubic feet per second, or 3 billion gallons a day at 7:05 p.m. Sept. 13, shortly before the monitor was swept away, Avery Chumbley, chairman of Wailuku Water Co., said Friday.
However, John Duey, a former longtime president of Hui O Na Wai Eha, said Monday that the water had to have risen even higher after the monitor went out. He pointed out that on Jan. 28, 1988, the USGS recorded more than 4 billion gallons a day, with very little damage to the area. Last week’s flood levels were probably closer to those of the 1916 flood that killed 13 Wailuku residents as reported in The Maui News, he said. At the time, the river was running at 10 billion gallons a day.
Since water weighs eight pounds a gallon, “you have an awful lot of force behind it” as the river flows downhill to the ocean, Duey said. Last week’s powerful flood wiped out the rocks that had been piled on the Waikapu side of the stream around 1970, to keep the river contained and away from people’s homes, said Duey, who’s lived in the valley since 1969. Now, the water has carved a new riverbed.
While the river’s path has changed and widened, Taylor said this will not impact water supply, since the department takes all of its water from above Kepaniwai Park. Together, the groundwater source tunnel in Kepaniwai and the surface water treatment plant typically produce 3 million gallons a day, according to the department.
Meanwhile, the Lahaina water treatment plant, which normally produces up to 3 million gallons a day, has been operating at 1.7 million gallons, according to the department. Taylor said that the intake system for the plant has been clogged with storm debris. Heavy rain also took a toll on West Maui, where flooding trapped one woman in her vehicle, and fallen boulders blocked off an extended family from the rest of the community.
Residents and businesses across the island have flocked to the aid of flood victims, with donations of clothing, bedding, food and supplies.
“The families that needed those things have gotten all they could, and were, asking for,” said Iao resident Kainoa Horcajo, whose family’s property and crops were damaged in the flood.
Horcajo has created a fundraising page for families at youcaring.com/all-families-who-live-along-wailuku-river-in-iao-valley-649540. Some residents did not have insurance because their homes were not in federal flood zones that required it.
On Monday, the county also asked nonresidents to stay out of Iao Valley, as residents were concerned about people coming onto their properties to take photos. Police have been stationed at the top of Iao Valley Road to limit access to residents. Kepaniwai Park and Iao Valley State Park remain closed, county spokesman Rod Antone said.
Taylor pointed out that hurricane season runs through November, and reminded all of Maui County’s residents that they should have at least five days’ worth of food, water, medicine and other emergency supplies on hand.
“A three-day boil water notice, when we actually have water, is not as dramatic as something we should all be prepared for anyway,” Taylor said. “I’m glad we didn’t have a full hurricane. It’s a good time for people to say, ‘Am I really prepared?'”
The Department of Water Supply advised residents who were impacted by the water advisory to run and flush faucets and fixtures for five to 10 minutes if the water is not clear. Appliances like soda dispensers, showers, heaters and ice makers should also be flushed. If water is still not clear, residents should contact the department’s 24-hour trouble hotline at 270-7633.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at email@example.com.