Tsunami damage to major Hawaii water plant may cost $3 million

HONOLULU — Officials from Honolulu City Water Department expect damage caused by the recent tsunami to persist through Wednesday, even with the lifting of the tsunami sirens.

They said damage to pipes, pumps and other equipment is unknown and estimates range from about $1 million to $3 million, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Officials estimate the temporary bridge closure could cost about $3 million, and additional expenses will come from repair costs and future water bill cycles.

“It’s a total loss right now,” said William Aila, mayor of Honolulu. “I don’t have an estimate that’s more than what it is right now.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said city workers will spend the next week replacing damaged equipment, and the department’s backup plan includes closing all of its 18 wells except one that supplies about 10 percent of the city’s water.

Officials don’t expect residents to lose water pressure or even any treatment because the system was built to withstand earthquakes and impacts from tsunamis, Aila said.

Two filters in the city’s treatment system were damaged by the tsunami, but the water is safe to drink and use, Aila said.

Both officials blamed failed infrastructure for the city’s water crisis, but Aila said the tsunami, if anything, is reminding officials about the importance of maintaining old pipes, repairing and replacing aging infrastructure, and upgrading systems now because of the potential of earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis in the future.

Aila said the city is negotiating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to buy a neighboring property so it can expand the department’s emergency storage facility, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

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