Army assists Kunia farmers and residents after only water pump breaks

Army assists Kunia farmers and residents after only water pump breaks

KUNIA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Army is pumping thousands of gallons of water per hour to one of the last remaining plantation villages on Oahu, after the farming community's only working water supply pump broke earlier this week.

Kunia Village, a small plantation-style farming community in Central Oahu, used to utilize a pair of pumps to draw water, both for drinking and for irrigation, from wells on plantation property.

In recent years, though, those pumps have gone down on multiple occasions. The Army first stepped in to provide water to the community last October, when both pumps were unoperational for a stretch that lasted into early November.

"Since we already have an Army water supply at the Kunia listening station, we were able to extend that water supply into Kunia Village," said Col. Steve Dawson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

In that instance, the Army used an emergency connection it has in the area to pump 2.1 million gallons of drinking water to the community. An additional 16.8 million gallons of recycled water were provided for irrigation needs.

Repairs on one of the pumps were conducted in November, but the pump failed again on Tuesday.

"It's just totally frustrated all of us," said Stephanie Whalen of Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, which oversees the village. "All of our consultants, who are the experts in the state on this, because it's gone down four times now in two years, which is just unheard of for a well."

"These wells are supposed to last for decades. For decades. And so it's just totally unfathomable what's happened," she added.

The state Department of Health declared a water shortage emergency, saying it was an immediate threat to life and public health. Whalen said there are many elderly residents in the village who would find it hard to leave their homes to fetch water from trucks for a prolonged period of time.

The Army says it intends to provide water to Kunia Village until the pump repairs are complete.

"We consider the outlying communities as part of our family. I think they consider us to be part of their family," said Col. Dawson. "It's a very tight web."

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.