Broken waterline at Dillingham Airfield is leaking millions of gallons ― every single month
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the state grapples with an ongoing water crisis, a broken waterline at Dillingham Airfield is leaking millions of gallons every month. State leaders say problems with the system date back nearly two decades.
But the agency in charge of getting it repaired has yet to fix it.
The wasteful mess is located beneath the mauka hangar and part of the runway at Dillingham Airfield.
“There’s as much as two million sometimes three million gallons a month that get lost,” said state Sen. Gil Riviere. “It’s a bit of a mystery as to where all the water goes.”
After a month of making requests, Riviere was the only government official who agreed to do an interview about broken pipes. It’s a problem he’s desperately trying to solve.
He says breaks in the line were identified a decade before he took office.
“2005 was when it was first noticed they were over pumping,” Riviere said.
The “they” he’s referring to is the state Department of Transportation Airports Division.
Although the well still sits on Army property, Riviere says the DOT agreed to take over the maintenance of the water system when it started leasing the land where Dillingham Airfield sits more than a half century ago.
“They’re permitting a certain amount: 55,000 gallons a day. Which is approximately 1.6 million gallons a month. They’ve been exceeding that regularly for 17 years now. Sometimes, it’s very much in excess,” he said.
In addition to the airport hangars and skydiving operations, lines serve several nearby homes, Camp Erdman, the Satellite Tracking Station and Mokuleia Beach Park.
The map below shows the water system. The blue indicates existing lines.
The yellow line is where Riviere says the leaks are the worst.
“It’s so bad the plan is to abandon that pipe. And then redo it and go around,” said Riviere said.
‘It hasn’t been a priority’
Riviere says the current plan isn’t the first time the DOT has attempted to make repairs on decaying system.
Outside the pump house, there’s 1,700 feet of pipe the state paid for several years ago to fix the leaks.
Today it’s still sitting there ― unused.
“It never quite got to action stage,” Riviere said. “I just think it hasn’t been a priority frankly. To get it done.”
The state Department of Health’s Safe Water Drinking Branch declined to comment on the situation. DOT’s Airports Division also refused to do an interview.
After weeks of requests the agency sent Hawaii News Now a statement that said repairs are expected to take close to two years.
They also said the “the design of the bypass must go through the federal, state environmental and archeological process and be approved by the US Army” before work can begin.
The exact cost of the project is unclear.
Community access to water in jeopardy
“It’s really a shame more attention wasn’t given to repairing the leaks sooner,” Riviere said. “But here we are.”
That’s not the only dilemma.
“The storage tank up the hill there is 100,000 gallons. It’s old, it’s spalling and it needs some refurbishing,” said Riviere.
There’s no plan for how that will be accomplished ― an issue that could jeopardize the neighborhood’s access to water.
That’s because Riviere says come 2024 DOT will be able to relinquish its responsibility over the water system.
Right now, there’s no other agency that wants to step in and take over.
“Nobody’s willing to accept a decrepit system. It needs to be fixed and brought up to an adequate standard,” Riviere said. “People who live off the airfield depend on the water. And so we cannot turn it off. That’s just not a possibility.”
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