Honolulu City Hall - Photo by Mel Ah Ching
Honolulu City Hall - Photo by Mel Ah Ching

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – The City & County of Honolulu has a number of costly repairs to make to the city’s aging sewer system, per a global consent decree from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including repairs to the Beach Walk in Waikiki.

There are only two places in the world the City & County of Honolulu can purchase the type of piping its needs for its repairs there – Germany and Kuwait.

The city selected Germany’s Meyer company and paid half of the $3.6 million contract upfront for special 72 inch Inside Diameter concrete polymer pipe that will go along a curved section of the Beach Walk force main.

But when the company filed for bankruptcy, and shut down the factory for more than three weeks this Spring, city officials began to worry the piping would never be delivered, and the sewer repairs, would not be completed on time by December 31, 2012.

The city opted to send two city employees, two design consultants and a geotech consultant to Germany in the last week of March to check out the situation firsthand.

“Had the German company not filed for bankruptcy and shut down the factory for more than three weeks without notifying the City, the trip may not have been necessary,” Louise Kim McCoy, press secretary for the Mayor, said in an email.

“However, the City was concerned about the viability of the company and its ability to get the factory back up and running and delivering the pipe as contracted. Therefore, two City employees went to Germany to make sure the plant was manufacturing the pipe according to specifications since the City had paid the contractor half upfront for the pipe.”

McCoy said the city representatives witnessed each stage of the production process and five quality assurance tests of the pipe being produced, and met with key personnel including management, operations, engineering and laboratory testing.

“It was important for Director Kahikina and the project manager to physically witness the pipe being manufactured and according to the specifications.  They did not want to rely on photos that could be altered or dated.  Plus, it would have been difficult to ensure that the work was meeting specifications without observing quality assurance tests. They physically witnessed various compression and pressure tests on the pipe,” McCoy said.

City taxpayers covered the $6,300 airfare and hotel for the two city employees’ while the three consultants on contract with the city paid their expenses through an existing city contract.

The City has notified the EPA and the state DOH of the unforeseen issues at the factory in Germany, which may affect the completion date, McCoy said.

“By traveling to Germany, it showed the manufacturer that the City means business.  It also showed both the EPA and DOH that the City is very serious about doing everything within its power to ensure the project is completed on time.  If all goes well, the City expects to meet the deadline,” McCoy said.

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