Homes, roadway damaged by worsening ground erosion in Palolo

Palolo residents say hillside erosion problem has gotten worse
Updated: Jul. 26, 2017 at 8:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For years, residents on Kuahea Street in Palolo have had to cope with a serious ground erosion problem. But some say the problem has gotten worse recently.

At one home, the pressure from ground movement has lifted up large chunks of a concrete driveway.

Across the street, a family recently abandoned their property because of severe damage.

"(Their) foundation is cracked you can see it from the back of the house. you can see in it the front of the house as well," said next-door neighbor Julie Iezzi. "The road is lifting. ... It's gotten worse in the last year or six months."

Experts said the problem is due to expansion in the adobe soil foundation of the hillside.

Heavy rainfall is a major contributor to the expansion but ruptured city water or sewer lines are other potential causes.

"When (the ground) expands, it expands vertically, it's going to cause cracks and distortions in the road ways and other pavements," said geotechnical engineer Paul Weidig.

"When it expands horizontally, it's going to turn walls over, especially stone masonry walls."

He said the expansive soil can create pressures of 12,000 to 14,000 pounds per square inch.

During a recent drive through the area, we saw a number of cracks and ruptures on large stone retaining walls at several residences. There's also a large sinkhole under a portion of Kuahea Street and there are a number of fissures in the road.

The city wouldn't talk about the situation due to pending litigation.

But at one point, the city did hire a company to fix the street but it only completed a portion of the work before apparently abandoning the job.

City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi said the Caldwell administration isn't doing enough to help residents.

"It's been going on for at least ten years and I feel badly for the residents. Many of them can't use their driveway, they can't get into their property," she said.

Weidig believes the problem predates that. Back in the 1950s, a landslide damaged six homes less than a block away at the Kuahea and Waiomao, forcing the city to condemn the properties.

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