New rules may slow Natatorium project
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
Gov. Ben Cayetano yesterday approved new rules for public freshwater and saltwater swimming pools that could affect the city's renovation of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.
The state Department of Health developed the rules over a two-year period, with much of the focus on the city's restoration of the Natatorium. Renovation of the memorial's facade, restrooms and bleachers was completed last year, but a lack of rules for saltwater swimming pools has delayed completion of the $11.5 million project.
Under the new rules, the water in a saltwater pool must be circulated by a "mechanical pumping force." The city's plan was to allow the ocean's currents to flush the water naturally through holes in the pool.
But the department determined that wave action at the Natatorium is insufficient for nearly three-quarters of the year to flush the pool adequately.
Mayor Harris said yesterday he hasn't read the new rules or talked to engineers about how much it might cost to modify the Natatorium pool design to conform to the new rules. He also said he has not checked how much money remains available to complete the pool work.
Earlier, members of the City Council said they were reluctant to spend more money on restoring the pool and they were concerned about the operating costs and potential health issues linked to an ocean-water pool.
"It's a shame that it's taken three years to get the rules," Harris said.
City Council Budget Committee Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said she would need to find out how much money it would cost the city to change the design to meet the new rules.
Highlights of the new rules include:
The water should be clear enough to see a disc 6 inches in diameter when it is tossed into the deepest end of the pool.
Visible scum, dirt, silt and other matter must be removed within 24 hours to minimize the potential for staphylococcus infection.
Condominium and hotel swimming pools will be classified as public facilities and be subject to the new rules. Businesses had argued that record-keeping and enforcement would be burdensome, but the Health Department said that "the higher usage of these pools and the significance of the visitor industry in Hawai'i's economy require regulation" of these facilities as public swimming pools.
Permits to operate public pools must be renewed every five years, which the department said will allow for better monitoring of the pools.
"Otherwise, these rules should have little or no impact on most public swimming pools throughout the state," said state Health Director Bruce Anderson.
Staff writer Robbie Dingeman contributed to this report.