Aqua Engineers purchases wastewater-treatment plant

LIHUE — After nearly 20 years of operating Puhi Sewer and Water Co., Kauai engineering firm Aqua Engineers purchased the wastewater treatment facility from Grove Farm Co. Inc. for an undisclosed price, officials from both firms said Thursday.

“The long-term investment by the employee-owners who are also residents of Kauai to ensure our precious environmental resources are protected — most specifically our groundwater by containing the wastewater and reusing it with the current technologies available,” said Michelle Emura, Aqua Engineers marketing specialist, in an email.

Emura said the purchase was submitted to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission in May 2013 and received final approval for closing on July 15.

The Puhi plant becomes the engineering’s first acquisition of a regulated public utility.

The business name will switch from Puhi Sewer and Water Co., Inc. to Aqua Puhi; however, the facility will continue to be called Puhi Sewer and Water Company.

Marissa Sandblom, Grove Farm vice president, said Puhi Sewer recently received approval from the PUC to provide commercial customers with non-potable water to meet landscaping or irrigation needs.

“Over time, commercial customers will be able to experience tremendous cost savings by using non-potable water for irrigating landscape features,” she said. “Non-potable water from Puhi Sewer costs just $1.55 per thousand gallons, versus $3.30 to $6.25 per thousand gallons for potable water.”

Ken Davis, president and COO of Aqua Engineers, said the purchase of the plant makes sense since the firm has expertise in utility services.

“For more than 10 years we have successfully owned and operated the Army wastewater utility at Schofield Barracks on Oahu through one of the nation’s first utility privatization contracts,” he said in a statement. “Acquiring Puhi Sewer and Water will further our investment in Hawaii and Kauai as a locally-based, employee-owned company.”

Aqua Engineers, a wastewater and water company, was selected by Grove Farm to operate and maintain the Puhi facility as well as develop a surface water treatment facility for Grove Farm in 2006.

Puhi Sewer currently provides wastewater collection, treatment, and water reuse services to over 1,300 residential, commercial and industrial customers.

The system encompasses areas that include Island School, Kauai Community College, Kukui Grove Shopping Center, Kukui Grove Village West (Pier One, Kmart), Hokulei Village Center, Chiefess Kamakaheli and the Puhi Industrial Center.

Warren H. Haruki, Grove Farm president and CEO, said Aqua Engineers “has a strong commitment to our island community.”

“Grove Farm is proud to have built Puhi Sewer and Water Co. to provide wastewater services to the families and businesses within the greater Lihue and Puhi area,” he said. “We are pleased to have been able to provide a valuable service for Kauai over the past two decades. Grove Farm will continue to better our island community through our numerous other community building projects and sustainability initiatives.”

Aqua Engineers, an employee-owned firm which has 95 employees and is based in Koloa, has been in business for almost 35 years serving 30 wastewater systems, 15 water systems and 70 pump stations across Hawaii, Emura said.

“If continuing our acquisition of facilities benefits the users, the developers and secure the future of our hard working employee owners then we will pursue those opportunities,” she said.

The Lihue-Puhi Wastewater Treatment Plant was built in 1993 by Grove Farm Properties to accommodate the firm’s development plans to develop residential, commercial and industrial areas.

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