H2O woes hit Kalaheo

KALAHEO — It’s hard to operate without water, so Birdie’s Cafe is closing its doors in the midst of a water shortage in Kalaheo.

“I heard that the repairs were going to take two weeks, but I also heard that there is no timetable to the repairs and that makes me nervous,” restaurant owner Ron Horoshko said Wednesday. “I heard they were going to bring in a water line to the residents below but that doesn’t help us at all up here on top of the hill.”

Horoshko said he just hired two additional staff in preparation for the usual increase in business that comes after graduation and summer vacationers. He will keep the frozen food but is giving a truckload of perishables to the food bank today.

The real disappointment comes from the morning customers who enjoy a cup of coffee and a bite to eat before heading out at Kukuiolono Golf Course. They don’t understand that he can’t serve anything if there is no water for dishes and sanitation, he said.

“We are hopeful that this is not going to be too long,” he added.

Hard to say.

The Department of Water said Wednesday Kalaheo residents should be prepared for intermittent low water pressure and water outages for an extended period of time. There are about 1,625 customers in Kalaheo that may be affected by the water outage. 

The DOW’s drilling contractor has not yet reached the point of damage to the over 1,000-foot long shaft that was damaged late Saturday night. Both of Kalaheo’s water sources are out of service and DOW’s supplemental backup system is unable to meet demand. 

“DOW is still evaluating the repairs needed and a timeline will be forthcoming as soon as possible,” a press release said.

The DOW has been working with the Department of Public Works to deliver water to the Kalaheo tank sites to temporarily alleviate the water outages. However, the DOW is urging Kalaheo residents and businesses to continue conservation measures until further notice.

Essential needs include cooking, bathing and toilet flushing. Urgent water conservation measures include refraining from car washing, turning off automatic sprinklers and outdoor irrigation systems.

Shower facilities are available for residents of Kakela Makai subdivision today and Friday at Hanapepe Stadium and Vidinha Stadium from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Residents must bring their own towels and toiletries. 

The DOW has provided water buffalos located before the entrance to Kukuiolono Park, for essentials uses. The DOW has also provided a tanker with non-drinkable water at Kalaheo Neighborhood Center, for toilet flushing only. Customers will need to bring their own water containers. Anyone unable to access the water buffalos or tanker can call 245-5455 for assistance.

Residents are also asked to notify their family, friends and neighbors to heed DOW’s urgent water conservation notice.

Without water and forced to close his cafe, Horoshko said he is losing about $1,500 a day and will lose about $2,000 on Saturday and Sunday. 

“This is just one of those things,” he said. “It’s just something that we have to deal with.”

He could bring in a container of water but then there are concerns and liabilities of ensuring it is filtered, he said. The cost of ensuring sanitation would be too high.

“The expense is just not worth it,” he said.

Kalaheo Steak and Ribs owner Ernest Kanekoa, said he and the other businesses on his block were fortunate to have water pressure and remain operational as of Wednesday. He is concerned that the two-week estimate to make the repairs to the water line would bring intermittent stoppages that could mean shutting down — but so far, so good.

“We have water and are still in business, serving as normal,” Kanekoa said. “We did get notice to please conserve but so far we don’t have a notice to close the restaurant.”

Margaret Rita, an employee at Brick Oven Pizza in Kalaheo, said they are also open for business and have no water issues at the moment. The Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company, is also open, according to employee Katelyn Umetsu. Peggy Reed, an employee at Kalaheo Florist, said the store is up the mountainside and so far is spared from the outage. 

Debbie Pulawa, a supervisor at Kukuiolono, said the water is not running but the course remains open.

“We don’t irrigate the fairways anyway and because of the rain, the greens and tee boxes are OK for now,” she added.

It would take a week of sunny days like Wednesday to start making the groundskeepers nervous, she said. 

“My water pressure is low but it’s OK,” she said. “They keep telling everyone to conserve and so I am going to the laundromat instead of washing clothes at home.”

 Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr. said the county was reaching out to agencies outside the county to determine if other assets are available to assist. 

“Once the problem is adequately diagnosed, please rest assured that we will do everything possible to address the essential water needs of the residents and businesses of Kalaheo,” he said in a press release.


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