Rules may hinder pool rebuilding

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
gpang@starbulletin.com

The restoration efforts for the Natatorium now have to provide for an electrical pump

Gov. Ben Cayetano has signed saltwater pool rules that likely will make it more difficult for the city to restore the pool portion of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium.
Mayor Jeremy Harris and City Council members said the project will be re-examined, citing a need to look at factors such as what is required and whether there will be added costs.

A major requirement of the new rules is that saltwater swimming pools must have mechanical circulation through an electric pump.

The city’s original plans called for the pool’s water to be circulated without mechanical devices so the new rules will likely require the administration of Mayor Jeremy Harris to return to the Council with revised plans, and possibly a request for more funding.

The Council approved $11 million for full restoration, and $4.6 million was spent restoring the facade, bleacher and restroom sections of the facility that was first opened in 1929.

The new rules, which take effect Monday, require water be circulated once every six hours and that the walls and bottom of the pool be “easy to clean” so that bacterial film can be removed.

Harris, who has steadfastly backed pool restoration despite criticism, said yesterday that neither he nor key officials in his administration had seen the rules.

“I’ve asked the civil engineers to look at the rules and see if (full restoration) is possible given the funding,” the mayor said, saying he had no idea how much a pump would cost.

Longtime Council supporters of the project also were cautious in their comments.

“We should determine all the costs and weigh it against the total cost of funds spent on the facility to date,” Felix said, stating that “a pact” had been made with World War I veterans to keep the pool as a memorial. “Unless the cost is truly prohibitive, then we should proceed.”

Councilman Duke Bainum, who, along with Felix and four other current members are not eligible for re-election this fall, said he still supports full restoration at some point but not while the city is in economic difficulty. Bainum said he believes the new rules will be something for the next Council to deal with.

“If our current engineering is incapable of complying with Health Department rules, then clearly we have to step back and re-engineer it and should that cost more than is allocated in the budget, then certainly they’re going to have step even further back and go back to the budgetary process.

Friends of the Natatorium spokeswoman Donna Ching said her group was “extremely disappointed” by the state’s rules, which she described as “arbitrary and capricious.” Ching said: “The regulations are not based on relevant science nor does there appear to be any intent to apply the rules equitably to all saltwater venues.”

A spokesman for the Kaimana Beach Coalition, which wants the pool removed and replaced with a beach, praised the state’s decision for “looking after the health and well-being of the many thousands of swimmers and Kaimana Beach users.”