Public housing tenants face eviction over washing machines - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Public housing tenants face eviction over washing machines

One of the laundry washing machines at Kauhale Ohana One of the laundry washing machines at Kauhale Ohana
Celeste Russell Celeste Russell
A Kauhale Ohana tenant takes his washer to the dump A Kauhale Ohana tenant takes his washer to the dump
Ben Gutierrez at the laundry room closed to the tenants Ben Gutierrez at the laundry room closed to the tenants
Jessica Hikalea Jessica Hikalea

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

WAIMANALO (HawaiiNewsNow) - A meeting is scheduled Monday between the Hawaii Public Housing Authority and tenants at a state housing project who were threatened with eviction because of a possible violation of water pollution rules and regulations.

Inspectors from the Clean Water Branch of the State Health Department checked the Kauhale Ohana housing project behind Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School because the washing machines were discharging into storm drains, and possibly into a nearby stream.

"I think a complaint came to our department on November 24th," said Matthew Kurano, an environmental health specialist with the Clean Water Branch. "Since then, we've issued a citation or warning letter to the owner, and we are in the response period, in which we're waiting for an appropriate response from the responsible party."

The responsible party in this case is the Housing Authority, which sent tenants a notice Monday afternoon.

"We were told to get rid of our washing machines and have them off the premises," said tenant Celeste Russell. "They didn't give us much time to figure out a solution, because we can't just throw it away. It's not something easy to get rid of."

The notices said tenants who did not remove their washing machines by Wednesday afternoon would be referred to eviction proceedings. Russell kept her washing machine, but unhooked it, just in case. But her neighbor took his washing machine to the dump.

"There was a, not a threat, but we would be in violation, so it would be grounds for eviction," Russell said.

Tenants complained that there is a laundry room in the complex, but it was closed a few years ago because of apparent thefts. Tenants said they were then allowed to bring in their own machines. However, there are no sinks or other connections to the sewer line, where the laundry water should go, so the hoses from the machines go onto the lawn, or into the storm drains.

With about a half hour left before management's deadline to get the machines off the property, tenants received another notice, which said there would be a meeting with tenants on Monday. While Russell is hopeful that an agreement can be reached that would allow her to keep her washing machine, others aren't so sure.

"They're gonna make us get rid of all our washers, that's probably it," tenant Jessica Hikalea said. "Or we get evicted. That's more than likely gonna happen."

According to the Health Department, the Housing Authority has until January 10 to respond to the violation notice. Meanwhile, the latest notice from the authority appears to allow residents to keep their washing machines, but told tenants that using washing machines on the property is prohibited.

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