BWS preparing long term plans to reduce water main breaks - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

BWS preparing long term plans to reduce water main breaks

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Roberto Mascarenhas Roberto Mascarenhas
John Matias John Matias
Ernest Lau Ernest Lau
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

To Oahu residents, it may seem like there's a water main break every day. According to the Board of Water Supply, it comes close. The board said there have been about 300 breaks a year in recent years. And it's now working on a 30-year master plan to bring that number down.

Consultants have been looking at one of the more recent breaks. A 24-inch main that was installed in 1952 broke early Thursday on Kahala Avenue near Waialae Beach Park. "The pipe is just over 60 years old," said Roberto Mascarenhas of the consulting firm CDM Smith. "However, cast iron pipes from that era are designed to last much longer, so there may be defects or activities that accelerated the corrosion and caused the break."

A 12-inch main also broke Friday on Kaahumanu Street in the Pearl City area. The pressure caused water to gush through the gap between the asphalt pavement and the concrete curbs. "We noticed this one here is digging up pretty good," said resident John Matias. "This happened in only ten minutes, which is pretty fast so the water just came through a different way."

"Forty percent of our system is over 40 years old, and we have a good part that's over 70 years old," said Board of Water Supply manager and chief engineer Ernest Lau. "Probably about 300 miles or so that's about 70 years old."

That's out of 2,100 miles of pipeline on Oahu.

Oahu residents are already paying more for the breaks and the fixes. A series of five rate hikes went into effect last year. The rate per 1,000 gallons rose to $3.06 in January 2012 and to $3.35 last July 1. The rate will go up again to $3.68 this July 1, with another hike in 2014 to $4.03, with a hike to $4.42 on July 1, 2015.

"It's really meant to pay for these types of infrastructure needs, to try to minimize the number of main breaks, continue to provide reliable water service to our customers," said Lau.

There will likely be another round of hikes as the board determines which lines need replacing, and how much they will cost, over the next three decades. "To look at our infrastructure, what are the causes of failure, how can we design the system, the pipeline systems better and other improvements better, to extend the life of the pipelines and the infrastructure," said Lau.

According to Lau, the public will get a chance to comment on the proposed master plan sometime later this year.

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