The Honolulu Board of Water Supply and three contractors are facing a health violation notice and a $420,000 fine after they discharged sediment from a reservoir into a stream over 18 days and failed to report it for over two weeks, according to the Hawaii Department of Health.

Board of Water Supply Ernest Lau holds evacuation diagram if dam is compromised or is damaged from too much water.
Ernest Lau is the Board of Water Supply’s manager and chief engineer. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Health officials issued a notice of violation and order against the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, RM Towill Corporation, SSFM International and Drayko Construction, the department said on Friday.

The entities released sediment from Nuuanu Reservoir No. 4 into upper Nuuanu Stream in February and March 2019, according to a news release. The violators failed to “complete dredging activities before draining water from the reservoir,” the health department said, which impacted water quality from the upper watershed to Honolulu Harbor.

Officials from the health department’s clean water branch only became aware of the issue after neighbors complained. BWS and its contractors failed to report the issue within 24 hours, as required by law, the health department said.

“The Board of Water Supply and its contractors must prevent polluting state waters,” said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of environmental health, in a statement. “If an unlawful discharge occurs, the BWS and its contractors are responsible for acting immediately to mitigate the impacts and report the incident to the DOH. In this case, neither the BWS nor its contractors acted as required by law.”

Under the notice of violation and order, BWS and its contractors must take corrective action to prevent additional discharges from the reservoir and pay the monetary penalty. They have 20 days to contest the violation and order and request a hearing.

BWS spokeswoman Kathleen Pahinui offered no explanation for the alleged violation in an email on Friday afternoon.

“The Board of Water Supply, its consultants and contractor are reviewing the Department of Health’s Notice of Violation and Order and have no further comment at this time,” she said.

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