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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Residents oppose sewage plan for Kualoa

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Bureau

KUALOA — The community is standing by its insistence that there be no digging to solve sewage problems at Kualoa Beach Park, considered by many Hawaiians to be a sacred spot on O'ahu.

For the second time in a year, the Kualoa-He'eia Hawaiian Civic Club has objected to city plans to construct sewage treatment components in the culturally sensitive area of numerous burial sites.

The Kahalu'u Neighborhood Board and the Committee on Historic preservation and Cultural Properties also criticized any plans to dig in the park, between Kahalu'u and Ka'a'awa.

The city has canceled a public meeting it had called for this week to present its plan for a leach field, a central wastewater treatment facility and underground pipes.

The neighborhood board asked the city last week to also present an alternative above-ground system, said Daniel Bender, board chairman.

"Generally, the consensus of the board is that we shouldn't be disturbing human remains for the purpose of treating sewage," Bender said.

He will propose that the board use its $1 million Capital Improvement Program money for the sewage treatment project.

The existing system for the five restrooms uses septic tanks, but they are clogged and not working properly, said Ben Lee, city managing director. The city has been pumping waste from the tanks weekly and sometimes on weekends, he said.

Last year the state Department of Health cited the city for a sewage spill in June, said Janice Okubo, department spokeswoman. The city was going to build a new system in October 2000, she said. But the community objected because of the need to dig, she said.

Then the city had hoped to compromise by using existing pathways that were already excavated. But that plan was resisted when the city met with the civic club and the preservation committee two months ago, Lee said.

Now, "we're leaning toward an above-ground system," he said. "There were some preliminary figures that were pretty expensive, but that may be due to the high level of water treatment."

The city has a $600,000 to $700,000 contract for the leach-field project, Lee said.

"I think it's going to be easily double, if not more than that," for an above-ground system, he said. "But I don't want to proceed with an underground system that is going to create a lot of opposition."

An above-ground system would require less excavation than a leach-field, Lee said.

Wayne Panoke, first vice president of the Kualoa-He'eia civic club, said cost should not be an issue. Kualoa was once the seat of Hawaiian government, where Kamehameha's warriors trained and where today Hawaiian vessels tip their masts as they pass in respect for the area, he said.

"When we have to get into the money situation and change our cultural protocol to accommodate the financial aspects, then what does that do to our culture?" Panoke asked. "It waters it down."