Another North Kona water pump fails, prompting emergency restrictions

Residents and businesses in North Kona will have to deal with an emergency water restriction for at least a week after another pump failed over the weekend.

A contractor started pulling up the massive motor and pump from the Honokohau Deepwell that stopped working on Sunday, affecting nearly 30,000 customers.

Since January, four other wells in North Kona have been out of service due to broken motors or pumps.

"What's really baffling us is that they're failing in such a short period of time. we don't have an answer," said Keith Okamoto, manager-chief engineer of Hawaii County's Department of Water Supply. "But what we do know is that we can't have pumps and motors only lasting between six months to two years.

The latest breakdown means all North Kona customers must restrict their water use to drinking, cooking and hygiene needs only. DWS officials are also suspending accounts for temporary service and irrigation.

"For coffee farmers and those that use water for their essential daily needs, no watering during the day, minimize any water overuse," said Okamoto.

The community faced the same severe water restriction in late June when the Keauhou Deepwell failed and emergency repairs took place.

"There's no excuse to have 5 out of 13 wells down. I don't care what the system is. That's just not something we can tolerate," said state Sen. Josh Green (D-Kona, Kau).

Once the damaged equipment from the Honokohau well reaches the surface in a couple of days, crews will install spare parts diverted from a project in Waimea. Okamoto said if nothing else goes wrong, the emergency restriction could be lifted on August 20 or 21.

"They're going to have to devote all of their resources to fixing up water for West Hawaii. It won't be cheap, but the consequences of not doing it would be catastrophic," said Green.

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