Thursday, February 1, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, February 1, 2001

Health officials say rules will make Natatorium safe

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer

State health officials say the rules being created for saltwater swimming pools will ensure public health and safety despite the objections of the Kaimana Beach Coalition that the public health safeguards aren’t enough for the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

Public hearings

The hearings continue:

Today on Maui at 1 p.m. at the J. Walter Cameron Center Auditorium, 95 Mahalani St. in Wailuku

Tomorrow on Kauai at 1 p.m. at the Lihue Health Center’s conference room, 3040 Umi St.

The department is asking people interested in the rules to comment. Written statements will be accepted until Feb. 9.

Testimony may be faxed to (808) 596-4729.

Deputy Health Director Gary Gill said "these rules will require that a pool such as the Natatorium be more safe than the ocean next door."

Attorney Jim Bickerton represents the Kaimana Beach Coalition, a group of people who use the beach nearest the veterans memorial.

The coalition opposes the plan for full restoration of the World War I memorial, which has been partially restored.

Bickerton, who spoke yesterday at a Health Department public hearing, again raised questions about the rules because they ignore the issue of dealing with the bacterium staphylococcus.

But Gill and Anderson both said the city will be required to meet appropriate health standards including water clarity and a monitoring program.

Gill said the city is taking a risk in restoring the Natatorium’s ocean-water pool: "The risk is that they will build a swimming pool in which no one can swim."

The lack of rules have been the major stumbling block to Mayor Jeremy Harris plan to complete the $11.5 million restoration of the beachfront memorial.

Concern about the cleanliness of the saltwater pool at the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium has prevented the completion of the city’s restoration project.

Advertiser library photo • Oct. 12, 2000

The monument was built in 1927 to honor 101 Hawai
i residents who died in World War I, but was closed in 1979 because it had become dilapidated and unsafe.

Last year, Harris pushed for and completed restoration of the facade, bleachers and public restrooms.

But issues about the long-closed pool remained in question.

In June 1999, Judge Gail Nakatani ruled that the Natatorium is a public swimming pool subject to Health Department regulation.

Gill and health experts have said that there is no accepted method to test for staph in salt water.

Anderson said he would consider further changing the rules with a special study and some circulation requirements to address concerns about staph.

After the hearing, state Health Director Bruce Anderson said he will review all the comments before moving forward to enact the rules. "I will insist that all health and safety issues be addressed before forwarding these rules to the governor."

The rules also revise other pool regulations. And those who oversee pools at hotels, apartments and condominiums argue that they go too far.

Tina Yamaki of the Hawaii Hotel Association said it’s not realistic to expect them to count the number of bathers and require showers.

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