City settles Ala Wai Canal sewer line lawsuit for $3.6M

City settles Ala Wai Canal sewer line lawsuit for $3.6M
Published: Dec. 16, 2015 at 10:48 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 17, 2015 at 12:33 AM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city is paying a construction company $3.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed over construction of a sewer line under the Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki.

During heavy rains in 2006, the city sent 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai to avoid toilets and sinks backing up in Waikiki after a sewer main broke there.

Then the city installed a huge black temporary sewage pipe in the canal and eventually hired Seattle-based Frank Coluccio Construction company to put a permanent sewer line under the Ala Wai.

The company sued the city after it completed the project, saying the city insisted on using a type of pipe the contractor didn't think was the best choice.

Coluccio also claimed the new pipe flooded during construction, causing equipment damage, delays and other costs.

The Honolulu City Council approved a $3.6 million dollar settlement for Coluccio earlier this fall.

"The taxpayers end up paying for the city's mistake," said Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi, who noted it could have been a lot worse, since Coluccio sued the city for $10 million.

"We're always told that it's better to settle because in many cases we'd end up paying the full amount," Kobayashi said.

The city's top civil attorney, Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, released a statement that said, "The city disputed the majority of Coluccio's claims but agreed to settle the case for $3.6 million so as to avoid the uncertainties and risks that are typical when proceeding to trial on the merits."

Leong said other delays on the Ala Wai project resulted from the pipe manufacturer going bankrupt and shipping labor disputes outside of the United States.

While Coluccio claimed there were problems with the pipe, it satisfied the specifications listed in the bid documents, Leong added.

The city is paying to settle the Ala Wai case out of its judgments and losses fund.

"But if we didn't have to put as much money in there, we could put more money somewhere else, like in fixing the restrooms in the parks, because they're in terrible shape," Kobayashi said.

The dispute over the type of pipe used in the Ala Wai happened under former Mayor Peter Carlisle.

Coluccio Construction has also sued the pipe manufacturer in federal court in Honolulu and is awaiting a decision in that case.

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