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Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Natatorium’s fate may
depend on new health rules

By Treena Shapiro


State health regulations could determine whether the city moves ahead with a multimillion-dollar project to restore the saltwater pool at the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

Members of the task force on public pools discussed today a final draft of regulations that will apply to all public pools. The revised rules include a new chapter regarding saltwater pools, created in response to a ruling by Circuit Judge Gail Nakatani that made the natatorium subject to state Health Department regulation.

Members of the task force have until the end of the month to voice any concerns about the draft before it moves forward to be approved for a public hearing, but project leader Brian Choy, sanitation branch director, said it is likely only "earth-shattering changes" will be added to the current document.

The city's plan to restore the pool portion of the natatorium has been on hold for a year due to the ruling that required a permit from the Health Department before proceeding with construction. In the meantime, however, the city spent $4.4 million of the $11.4 million budgeted for restoration to renovate the façade of the 73-year-old facility.

According to the draft, the Natatorium's operator would have to monitor water clarity daily during the pool's peak use, and monitor for fecal indicator bacteria at least once a week at multiple sites within the pool and near-shore sites outside the pool.

Gary Gill, state deputy director for public health, said he thought the city could move ahead with plans to restore the pool under the drafted regulations. "Basically the conditions that the city has already agreed to regarding monitoring of the water quality, inside and outside of the natatorium, are not exceeded by these rules," he said.

But Doug Codiga, one of the attorneys for the Kaimana Beach Coalition, which brought about the lawsuit that halted the pool's restoration, called the regulations inadequate. The coalition is concerned about discharge from the pool into the nearby keiki swim area and Kaimana Beach Park.

"If the regulations don't assure that the water is clean in the pool, then the water that gets dumped out into the keiki swim area is going to be bad," Codiga said.

One of the group's major concerns is that a permit to operate a public pool will be automatically approved if the director fails to act on it within 180 days of submission. Another concern is an increased presence of staphylococcus and other bacteria that can cause infections.

"We trust the Department of Health to make responsible judgments about safeguarding the public health, and we have always been committed to public safety at all of our public facilities," the mayor's office said in a statement.

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