JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
A woman walks by the reflecting pool that surrounds the state Capitol. Algae continually grow in the pool, as visible in the foreground.
Algae defeats state at Capitol pool
The state has given up the battle to remove all the algae from the Capitol reflecting pool.
Over the years, workers have swept, scraped, tried to kill the algae with chlorine, even used tilapia to eat it. Nothing gets rid of the green stuff.
"We're always going to have algae in the pool," said Comptroller Russ Saito, who stressed that the problem is under control.
The 80,000-square-foot shallow pool -- representing the Pacific Ocean -- has never been algae-free, a problem since the Capitol was built in 1969.
"It would make sense to redo the pool," Saito said. "We made plans in the past, but they never survived."
According to Saito, the pool is a lot cleaner than it has been in the past. "It was murky and smelly."
Others think the water was cleanest when tilapia were brought in to eat the algae.
When Saito became comptroller in 2003, he approved the use of prison inmates to clean the pool and save on labor expenses. Yearly, the cleaning costs the state $72,000.
Goo keeps a tight grip on 2 water landmarks
At two of the state's most notable landmarks, gooey stuff is getting the best of local government.
The state government's years-old fight against algae in the reflecting pool at the Capitol has ended in a stalemate.
Over the years, the state has tried scrubbing, scrapping, disinfecting and even prison inmate labor to fight the algae.
Yet nothing eliminated the problem entirely.
State Comptroller Russ Saito said the algae is here to stay, "but it's under control."
A few blocks away at the Neal Blaisdell Center, it's different green stuff that is causing headaches for city workers.
Ogo, an edible weed, is clogging the ponds that surround the center.
"We'll go in and clean all of this stuff out, but one or two strains will remain and before you know it, poof. I mean, it's prolific," said Sidney Quintal, director of the city Department of Enterprise Services.
Because of the abundant fish in the ponds, city crews cannot use chemicals such as chlorine, as has been tried at the Capitol's reflecting pool.
"There is no known solution to eliminate the problem, other than periodic cleaning as manpower allows," Quintal said.
The inmates still work in the pools with a small group of state workers in a weekly process of five-day scrubbing cycles and enzyme sprays. Enzymes are sprayed on the water's surface to retard algae growth but do not exterminate it.
"The bottom of the pool is a membrane with rocks that make it hard to clean," Saito said. "It's not flat tiles, like most pools."
Some frequenters of the area say the disrepair of the pool acts as a nasty metaphor for the Pacific Ocean.
"I guess with all the pollution the Pacific Ocean is getting now, it does represent it," Stewy Just said while eating lunch at the side of the pool.
Legislators took notice of the algae and even submitted a resolution last year that would have offered a cash prize to students who could come up with solutions for the algae-ridden pool.
"The annual costs to clean and maintain the reflecting pool runs into the thousands," said former Rep. Dennis Arakaki's resolution. Instead, the state should use "the sophistication of environmentally designed technologies." The resolution never passed.
About a year and a half ago, the state ran a pilot test for an anti-algae solution by professionals. But not many were interested in tackling the 37-year-old problem. Four people competed.
"The only people willing were people who made enzymes." So the state went with enzymes and has not changed since.
Others argue the process is not efficient.
"They cleaned it," Just said, "but it's back again. They should just use chlorine or fill it in and plant a garden."