State to investigate massive water leak in Central Oahu

Local News

A massive water leak that spilled millions of gallons of water in Central Oahu has finally been stopped.

Last week Wednesday, KHON2 went to Waiawa acting on a tip. The viewer said we would find leaking pipes in a heavily forested section near Waiawa Correctional Facility.

We found the damage and eventually discovered that the water was coming from a state-owned ditch system that delivers irrigated water to farms in Central and Leeward Oahu.

Last Thursday, KHON2 led a state repair crew to the leaking pipes. Vernon Pico, manager of the Waiahole Ditch water system, wanted to see for himself that it was his water leaking from the damaged pipes.

The first leak came from a six-inch pipe. Pico estimated the water loss at “less than 300 gallons a minute.”

“We diverted the water since May 2nd, so we never knew that this line was activated,” he said.

Pico said the ditch water usually goes to seed companies and small farms in Kunia, companies like Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Syngenta Seeds, as well as to Larry Jefts Farms.

KHON2 also led the repair crew to a second leak, from a half-inch pipe that spewed a geyser about 20 to 25 feet into the air, wasting about 30 gallons of water per minute. That line required an easier fix, with a cap.

The Waiahole Ditch water system starts beneath the Koolau mountains on the Windward side of the island and was used to irrigate big plantations on the Central and Leeward sides of the island.

On Monday, May 18, a repair crew was able to block the water at its source, a 10-inch pipe that leads into the intake valve at one of the water tunnels in Waiahole at the foot of the Koolau.

But even with that repair, there will still be a lot of water remaining in the line.

“The leak is about two to three miles from our system so we have two to three miles of pipe that we need to de-water before the water stops,” said Pico.

Pico told KHON2 he was grateful to be alerted of the leak before his end-of-the-month report to the state Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) on the amount of water released from the system.

“We’re not supposed to be releasing any more water on this side as the farmers can use,” said Pico. “It’s good that someone found it or the monthly report would be higher.”

The system of ditches, tunnels and water lines is actually under the management of the state Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC), which is attached to the state Department of Agriculture.

On the heels of KHON2’s investigation, CWRM acting deputy manager Roy Hardy responded with this statement:

“Thanks for KHON and the hikers for finding and reporting the leak. Currently, CWRM is following up with the ADC and will conduct a field investigation to verify what has happened and confirm actual volume of the current release. There could be a need for well construction permits for the tunnel (not the ditch) and/or enforcement action on those and/or ADC’s Water User permit #00862 for 2 million gallons per day for system losses.”

The exact dollar value for the loss of all that irrigation water is still to be determined. KHON2 was told that irrigation water usually sells for about 55 cents per one thousand gallons.

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