24 May What Are We Drinking?
Who can rely on the quality of water we’re drinking when the County water department would blatantly lie to the public and our courts? What follows is very upsetting and should be known by all. We are on appeal and we intend to seek the strongest rebuke and remedy that our Supreme Court will grant.
Hard to believe, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2017 that our County Council realized their water supply and the water supplied from Puhi to Kapaa was ditch water. I attended the County Council meeting where Chair Mel Rapozo actually said after a report from the Water Department, “you mean we’re drinking ditch water in Wailua and Kapaa?” To which then Chief Engineer, Kirk Saiki, said yes. As you’ll see from the text below, the public was not really in the know about the Waiahi Surface Water Treatment Plant’s (SWTP) processing of ditch water for the public. It was built by the County and Grove Farm in 2003 but there was no public notice and no environmental review in total violation of the State Constitution and State and Federal laws. When tax payer funds are used, as in this case, the Hawaii Environmental Protection Act mandates an assessment of the environment and particularly the stream sources of the diverted ditch water. To date, this has never done.
Rather, in 2018, the Kauai Department of Water (KDOW) published a Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) for the installation of a lengthy 18″ main that would carry water to Grove Farm’s housing developments from Puhi through Hanamaulu. On review, we noticed that there was no environmental assessment of the water source, the streams in the Wailua watershed. Millions of gallons are taken daily and diverted to the Kapaia Reservoir, but there was no consideration of the impact to the steams being diverted to the reservoir. The County’s position, per their 2018 DEA, was that there was no increase in the capacity of water to be taken from the watershed, relieving them of any need to consider the environmental impacts to the watershed. That was there contention in the 2018 DEA. Our comment objected, noting that adding a new 18″ main would, of course, increase the capacity of the water diverted from the steams. It was due March 12 and the County didn’t wait or even respond to our comment but prepared a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), dated March 12, 2018. Our only alternative was file a complaint in the Environmental Court. We did that and in June 2020, Judge Watanabe, ruled in favor of the County accepting the declaration of their attorney that the new line would not take more water from the watershed. We had filed a declaration of a hydrologist demonstrating that there would be an increase in the capacity of the system and the waters taken. His declaration was not opposed by any engineer or hydrologist, only the declaration of the County’s attorney. So now we’re on appeal and we just discovered a huge fraud on the Court and the public.
It turns out KDOW had published an earlier DEA for the same 18″ main in 2016. They withdrew it, claiming an error in the address of their consultant, Kadani Engineering. Unfortunately, we believed their stated reason for withdrawal. While working on the appeal, we decided to review the 2016 DEA and were shocked to learn that KDOW openly admitted that the 18″ main was being added to meet the increased capacity need for Grove Farm’s developments. So all their claims about no need to increase capacity or volume of diverted water taken are false. Below you will find text from the 2016 DEA which you can compare against what they published the 2018 DEA for the same project.
“In 2009, Kodani & Associates Engineers, LLC prepared the Līhu’e-Hanama’ulu Master Planned Community Water Master Plan for Grove Farm Company, Inc. (Grove Farm). In part, the Master Plan was prepared for the future development process of Grove Farm property. Phase I of the Master Plan included the proposed development of a 9,000 linear feet (L.F.)of 18-inch waterline along the main Kāpaia Cane Haul Road from Ma’alo Road to Kūhiō Highway (See Exhibit E).
The County of Kaua’i, Department of Water (DOW) Kāpaia Cane Haul Road 18-inch Main proposed project is currently described in the 2015 Proposed Capital Improvement Project (CIP).1 The DOW wishes to increase potable water capacity in the Līhu’e area to satisfy existing and future potable water needs. Grove Farm is the owner of the property on which the main portion of the transmission line is proposed to be constructed and is able to satisfy a portion of the increased capacity needs of the DOW.” (Emphasis Added) See page 8 of KDOW 2016 DEA link below
In contrast, the following is from the 2018 DEA published for public comment, claiming no increase in the capacity of the water to be taken.
“2.1 Description and Technical Characteristics
The Department of Water, County of Kauai (“KDOW”) proposes to construct an approximately 9,000 foot long, 18-inch diameter water transmission main (“Relief Line”) beginning at the intersection of `Ehiku Street and Kūhiō Highway, crossing into private property and traveling along the Kapaia Cane Haul Road from Kūhiō Highway toward and ending at Mā`alo Road. The proposed Relief Line will connect to existing KDOW 16-inch diameter water transmission mains on each end.”
“2.2 Purpose and Need
No additional source or storage is required for this project.
The Waiahi SWTP is a major source of potable water for the Līhu`e system. The current capacity of the Waiahi SWTP is 3.0 million gallons per day (MGD) in accordance with various governmental regulations and approvals. The capacity of the Waiahi SWTP will not increase due to the installation of the proposed Relief Line.”
While on appeal, we also obtained a copy of a critical email from KDOW Engineer Dustin Moises to Mike Dahilig, than County Planning Director. Excerpts from his email, Dustin Moises – email comments, confirm that KDOW has never done the required environmental review and validates our case, now on appeal.
“Finally, I think their statement “No environmental assessment or statement was prepared for Grove Farm SWTP operations and the DEA should include this assessment within its scope.” is the biggest one of this comment. The original treatment plant did not have an EA done and since the very first trigger for HEPA is use of ”county funds”, one could question validity of the existing SWTP development since KDOW paid 2/3 of the cost with GF and will own it. It would have been helpful to have that done then to fall on now but without one that I am aware of, i would say that should be revisited now with pipeline DEA.”
“How do you address the EA not being done a decade ago as related to DHHL comment #2 when DOW funds were used the same way the EA was triggered for this pipeline? SWTP is a private system so we have to separate ourselves from that and diversions but we can’t separate from the 2/3 DOW $. I think this is the biggest issue related to the EA comments. We don’t have anything to stand on from a decade ago to help us now.”
“KAE in drafting it with KDOW should be transparent to the community and disclose anything that could be an issue related to EA whether involves GF, County or KDOW. In doing so, evaluate the 13 administrative criteria for significance and determine CWRM vs KDOW vs others responsibilities during the process. Utilize the OEQC guide for HEPA implementation.” (None of these recommendations were followed by KDOW.)
Our appeal and the remedy we seek is probably years away because of court congestion. Your continued support is much appreciated as we work to protect our environment and require are public agencies to fulfill their constitutional duty to protect one or our most valuable public trust resources, water.
Mahalo nui loa,