Sinking the sinkhole in Kailua

By: Kirsten Sibley

26 September 2019

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  • By Kirsten Sibley
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City Officials remain quiet in the heat of the Kailua sinkhole repairs’ progress. Residents of  Keolu Hills in Kailua are frustrated and demand to know when the sinkhole will be repaired; however, their questions remain unanswered.

Hinsverk recommended that residents of Keole Hills hire lawyers to fight the city. Hinsvark had done some research on the sinkhole, including examining blueprints of the entire silt marshland of Keolu Hills.

 

“Houses blocks away from the sinkhole are all at risk.," Hinsverk said. "The water needs to drain somewhere, and everyone is in the danger zone of hill slides. Insurance won’t cover the damage, and residents could lose their homes. The city was supposed to maintain the pipes, and they haven’t."

 

The drainage pipe, installed in the 1970s by the company Lone Star, empties into the silt basin. Lone Star’s pipe was of cheap metal, destined to rust and corrode. The rest of Oʻahuʻs drainage is a system of reliable cement rectangular pipes that are easy to uphold decades of usage.  

 

The city’s Department of Design and Construction is responsible for reassuring locals that drain pipes are clear of debris. Hinsverk pointed to the the drainpipe, which was full of mud. The metal pipe corroded, necessarily causing the sinkhole, and there had been zero maintenance since the 1970s. More than 30 years of accumulated dirt was blocking the flowing water and had put a lot of weight and pressure on the pipe.

 

The Young family, who attended the board meeting, has been very active in the investigation since their house has been blocked off for over a year now.

 

“The sinkhole is in front of our house, and the drainage goes in the back of our house towards the front of our house along the side of our house., said Keith Young. "They have to access the storm drain to the manhole from the back of our yard, so we’re kind of a double whammy. It’s a big mess. We don’t have access to our yard. People can’t come down the street. We don’t even see our other side of the street neighbors.”


Neighbors of the Young family, who also live on Kanapuʻu Drive, have been facing other, more pressing difficulties. Lane S. Hamaoka’s house has actually shifted since the occurrence of the sinkhole. When she filed a claim with the city to have it repaired, she was denied. The city claimed that house shifting was due to the fact that the property was built on silt marshland and not because of the sinkhole.

 

Apart from this one situation, the city refuses to discuss construction progress with anyone else. Even the white helmet workers from Paul’s Electric were giving different answers and averting specific questions when I visited the site. They refused to give their names or a set finish date for the repairs.

 

“We’re all in the dark right now, Young said. "The city hasn’t told us anything. And that has been the biggest problem because all of the neighbors come and ask when ‘they’ are going to finish this up? We have no clue."

Angry locals met with the Kailua Neighborhood Board members early in September to discuss their strategy to confront the Department of Design and Construction. Originally the city had claimed the repairs would take six to eight months, but it became apparent that Paul’s Electric company would have to work around other water mains, complicating the process. 

As the sinkhole began to widen over the months, the city refused to respond to complaints, phone calls, or even meet with the board to give an estimated timeline. The members decided their best line of offense was to ensure the residents be as well-informed as possible with the truth so that they were prepared to go up against city officials.

Last October 30, a sinkhole 15 feet wide and 15 feet deep had opened up in the middle of Kanapuʻu Drive because of corrosion in an underground metal pipe. It has been a year of construction crews, heavy equipment, and loud obstructing noise infiltrating the neighborhood.

Ex-board member and local retired engineer Vern Hinsvark was the man for this task. He investigated the situation and even gave up his spot on the board to pursue the truth.

 

According to Hinsverk, the owner of Paul’s Electric, Paul Adachi, also owns 20+ acres of the silt basin and had made plans to subdivide the land into 60 to 70 houses. This plan has been delayed because of the sinkhole.

 

“Everything has been done behind closed doors, Hinsverk said. "It’s been a quiet repair with Paul as a special contractor. The city can only use special contractors when it’s an emergency like the sinkhole."

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