By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Defining it as a pool may jeopardize the restoration due to health standards
Is it a pool or isn’t it?
The fate of the city’s $11.5 million restoration of the Waikiki War Memorial and Natatorium may rest on Circuit Judge Gail Nakatani’s response to the question.
Nakatani said she will rule Monday.
The city doesn’t want it declared a pool since health officials say it might be closed to swimming because it is doubtful it meets pool standards.
The Kaimana Beach Coalition doesn’t want the natatorium open, citing health questions, cost and possible ruin of neighboring Kaimana Beach.
James Bickerton, attorney for the coalition, argued yesterday that the facility is clearly a swimming pool.
“It has clearly defined boundaries,” he said, noting that the natatorium is separated from the ocean on three sides by a 10-foot thick wall.
Bickerton added that a saltwater pool at a Kona resort, fed by the open ocean, has followed state regulations since the 1970s.
Deputy City Corporation Counsel Tedson Koja argued that the natatorium is similar to other partially enclosed facilities such as Magic Island, the Wall in Waikiki and Ko Olina.
None of those fall under pool regulations, Koja said. Those rules, he said, “were never intended to apply to a swimming venue such as the Natatorium.”
Koja added, “The water quality inside of the Natatorium will be the same quality as the water outside.”
Bickerton countered that Koja’s comparisons were improper. “Nobody operates and maintains Magic Island; nobody goes in there to scrub the rocks.”
Nakatani questioned how Koja could make that comparison when the city intends to implement restrictions recommended by paid consultant Roger Fujioka.
Those recommendations, made public on Monday, included barring people under 4 and those with liver diseases, AIDS or skin infections from entering the pool.
But Corporation Counsel David Arakawa said after yesterday’s hearings that the city never intended to incorporate all of Fujioka’s recommendations — despite reports that led to cries of discrimination from the ACLU.
People with open sores and wounds likely won’t be allowed, Arakawa said, but other restrictions have not been finalized.
“We’re not going to discriminate against people,” Deputy Corporation Counsel Gary Takeuchi said.
The city will sit down with the state Health Department and Fujioka to discuss which of the recommendations will be implemented, Takeuchi said.
Health Director Bruce Anderson said his agency has no grounds to regulate the natatorium if Nakatani rules it is not a swimming pool.
For instance, he said, it would be impractical, if not impossible, for the city to apply chlorine to the salt water. If Nakatani rules that it is a pool, however, the department will come up with new requirements involving saltwater pools.