Workers put the final resurfacing touches on the Waikiki Natatorium bleachers during restoration in May 2000. Work on the saltwater pool has been on hold pending state rules.

New rules sink
plans for Waikiki

State health mandates would
force a major revision by the city

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Expect the city to go back to the drawing board if it wants to pursue restoration of the pool at the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.

Draft rules for saltwater swimming pools expected to be signed this week by state Health Director Bruce Anderson and then forwarded to Gov. Ben Cayetano for final approval would require:

>> A mechanical pump system to push ocean water into the pool for circulation. Experts have said concentration of staphylococcus, a type of bacteria that causes boils and abscesses, would grow in the pool without proper circulation.

>> The sides and bottom of saltwater pools to be lined with hard, impermeable and easy-to-clean surfaces.

The city's original plan, from the Leo A. Daly Co. architectural firm, called for water to be circulated naturally. The Daly plan also called for the pool's bottom to remain sand.

A city spokeswoman said Mayor Jeremy Harris' administration could not comment on the draft rules because it had yet to see them.

But attorney Jim Bickerton, longtime opponent of the natatorium restoration, said the rules, if approved by Cayetano, would force the city to go back to the beginning of the planning process because they substantially altered the original plan.

"It has to be redesigned and that will require the City Council to revisit the matter and new permits to be issued," Bickerton said.

Anderson agreed.

"Clearly, they're going to have to make some major design changes if they expect to conform to these proposed rules," he said.

The changes were made, he said, to address health concerns raised by experts who said the potential for staphylococcus infection could not be mitigated in a pool that relied on natural circulation.

University of Hawaii oceanographer Roger Lukas, one of the experts Anderson referred to, was happy with the revised proposal.

"From the perspective of ensuring that the water quality in the pool meets standards for public health, I think it's good news," said Lukas, one of the scientists on an advisory panel set up by the Health Department.

In April, Lukas and others held a news conference to say they believed their recommendations were being ignored.

"My main concern has been there's no way to ensure adequate exchange of water between the ocean and the interior of a naturally flushing saltwater pool," Lukas said.

Requiring a pump system, he said, "is as good as anybody could reasonably want."

Anderson said the second change in the proposed rules, requiring hard, impermeable surfaces, is also necessary.

"The concern there is that that sediment and potential pathogenic organisms would be sequestered in the sediment and would be resuspended when the sediment was agitated, possibly exposing people to those hazards," he said.

A third change in the proposed rules will require that the pool's water be completely exchanged four times a day, or every six hours. Anderson said that standard is consistent with freshwater swimming pools. An earlier proposal required three water exchanges a day, or once every eight hours.

A mechanical pump system would make it easier to do four exchanges a day, he said.

The city has tried to come up with a solution for the deteriorating memorial to World War I veterans that was first opened in 1927 and shut down in 1979 because of health questions.

The City Council approved $11 million for the full restoration plans pushed by Harris in 1998 despite community division.

But the Kaimana Beach Coalition sued the city and a judge determined that the natatorium is a saltwater pool that needed regulation by the Health Department.

Harris proceeded with the facade and bleachers of the pool but ordered a halt to construction on the pool portion pending the completion of rules by the state.

Donna Ching, spokeswoman for the Friends of the Natatorium, said the group is happy the rules will soon be out even though members believed a pump was unnecessary.

E-mail to City Desk


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