Friday, October 1, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Ewa Villages
water excesses
cut back

The city spent thousands
to halt abuses in one area
reaching $65,000 a month

City sues Campbell Estate, Oahu Sugar

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Plantation families in Ewa Villages paid little, if anything, to rent a home and receive water.

So when the city took over Ewa Villages more than a decade ago, it charged residents of existing homes a nominal $40 rent and $25 for water monthly.

But officials say water has been abused in the Varona section of Ewa Villages, and now individual meters and a new water line have been put in place to reduce usage.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jeremy Harris' top lieutenants continued to defend the Ewa Villages Revitalization Project despite the critical conclusions of a recent audit.

Where once the city was being charged some $65,000 a month for up to 17 million gallons used, it now pays about $9,000 a month for 4 million gallons used in Varona, city Water Manager Cliff Jamile told the City Council Policy Committee yesterday.

There are 38 families in Varona Village. The average Varona family used 2,500 gallons of water a month, compared with the Oahu average of 500 gallons.

Jamile said the city spent "several hundred thousand dollars" to make the improvements to cut down on the abuse.

"They are still using an excessive amount of water," said Managing Director Ben Lee. "We will be notifying them that they need to be more responsible."

Councilman John DeSoto, who represents the Ewa region, said "it doesn't seem like money well spent" to pay for the meters when the city is looking at eventually tearing down Varona and moving its residents to the newer Tenney and Renton villages.

Jamile said "it was worthwhile to the city to spend the money to replace the leaking water lines."

Jamile said that in the process of replacing the lines, "we uncovered many, many illegal taps -- uses of water that clearly are not covered."

The city has identified which tenants have been abusing water privileges and is looking at what kind of penalties may be imposed, Jamile said.

Deputy Managing Director Malcolm Tom gave a positive view of the controversial project, intended to restore and revitalize the homes of plantation residents who would have been forced to move after the demise of sugar in the region.

"We're doing all that we can and we're getting the job done," he said.

The audit by accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick raises doubts that the city can sell $44.8 million in homes and real estate by next October to pay off a short-term debt of $43.5 million.

Tom said the city will actually have a $7 million surplus by next October when the houses are sold. But the auditors said repeatedly yesterday that Tom is being "misleading" by not factoring in a separate, $29 million general-obligation bond that is unpaid.

The audit concludes that even if the city did raise the money, it would remain $21.9 million in the hole as a result of the unpaid bond.

Meanwhile, the administration said it has reached agreements with two nonprofit groups to deal with remaining unrehabilitated homes in Renton and Tenney villages. Both proposals still need Council approval.

The Ewa Villages Nonprofit Development Co. would purchase 88 units at $5.3 million, renovate and sell them. The group would buy an additional six units for $1.08 million as demonstration homes.

The group has done the majority of about 100 rehabilitated homes in Ewa Villages for the city.

The Pacific Housing Assistance Corp. would pick up 12 rehabilitated homes as part of an ongoing rent-to-own program.

City sues Campbell
Estate, Oahu Sugar
over waste cleanup

Star-Bulletin staff


The city has filed suit against Campbell Estate and Oahu Sugar Company to recoup costs of cleaning up chemical waste that was improperly disposed of on Ewa lands.

The city acquired the property in February 1993 as part of the Ewa Villages revitalization project.

Since the 1900s, Oahu Sugar had leased the lands to cultivate sugar and released hazardous chemicals, pesticides and other pollutants into the soil and ground water, the suit said.

The city alleges that the estate and Oahu Sugar were negligent in storing or disposing of hazardous waste. The cleanup has increased the city's cost of developing the lands and resulted in costly delays, the suit said.

The complaints, filed in both federal and state court, allege that the defendants are liable for all costs incurred in removing the hazardous waste as required by the state's environmental response law.

The city seeks damages, including loss of value to the property and past and future costs.

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