LIHU‘E — The county is moving forward with $6.5 million in upgrades to the Waimea Wastewater System.
The Kaua‘i County Council authorized the county’s Department of Public Works to enter an intergovernmental agreement with the state’s Department of Health for a loan from the State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund for the project.
These upgrades will establish the Waimea Wastewater Treatment Plant as an R-1 recycled water storage and distribution system. Different than potable water, this recycled water can be used for irrigation purposes.
In Waimea, the idea is to bring this drought-proof water source to the Waimea Athletic Field and Waimea Canyon Middle School in the first phase of the project, Jason Kagimoto, Chief of the Wastewater Management Division explained to the council on Wednesday.
In 2013, the Waimea wastewater facility completed R-1 upgrades, and in 2019, the Waimea Athletic Field Irrigation System upgrades were completed.
The vision for Waimea is to produce about 200,000 gallons per day for a 400,000-gallon storage tank and R-1 recycled water pumping and piping systems, Kagimoto said.
On other islands, this sort of non-potable, undrinkable water system typically provides irrigation to golf courses, parks and playgrounds, schoolyards, athletic fields, resort landscaping and food crops.
Already, the county provides water to the Hokuala golf course by funneling water into a pond which is then used to water the fairways.
Since June 2020, the county has paid Hartung Brothers $60,000 to use about 200,000 gallons of R-2 recycled water daily for alfalfa growth.
“Hartung Brothers was already leasing land within the County’s recently purchased acreage,” Kagimoto said in an email when asked what types of discussions led to this partnership. “There was existing infrastructure that was already in place to deliver the recycled water.”
Hartung Brothers received a $750,000 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Grant from the county to establish livestock feed production infrastructure as well as equipment for cattle finishing, and a big part of that is alfalfa growth, which the company sells commercially to ranchers.
The fact that the county was paying for Hartung’s use raised eyebrows from councilmembers.
Councilmember Billy DeCosta, a farmer himself, asked if the system would be able to support other farmers on the 400 acres, including if the water would be suitable for taro farms, which are a Westside favorite.
“It would be much better if we were in a different situation,” Kagimoto said in the meeting.
Later, in an email, Kagimoto clarified that the county is negotiating further monthly costs, which comes from the Wastewater Management Division’s operating budget.
As part of the system, which is regulated by the Department of Health, regular safety practices will be implemented to ensure no cross-contamination with potable drinking water systems will take place, as well as signage, special hose bibbs, color-coded pipe and valve boxes and irrigation system staff training, according to Kagimoto’s presentation.
The county’s projecting a first-quarter bid out for construction.