Kakaako Waterfront Park had to be closed four hours early every day starting in October after vandals destroyed light poles to tap into electricity, and now the park’s water system may have been broken into — shutting off water to bathrooms, showers, fountains and the 12 families at the state’s new homeless shelter.
A backflow preventer directly makai of the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center was found to be broken Monday, cutting off water service to the state’s new Family Assessment Center homeless shelter between Kakaako Waterfront Park and the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.
A replacement part for the broken backflow preventer will have to be flown in from the mainland and is not expected to arrive until Friday, said Garrett Kamemoto, spokesman for the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which operates the park.
“We know that somebody has tried to tap into the backflow preventer, but we do not know that that is the actual cause of the problem,” Kamemoto said.
The park is home to an entrenched homeless encampment that in 2015 accounted for more than 300 homeless people.
In October, 13 light poles were vandalized as a way to tap into the electrical system, forcing the park to close at night for nearly a month for repairs.
Kamemoto said he did not know exactly what part on the backflow preventer had been broken, but that he was hopeful repairs can be made Friday and water service restored. (A blackflow preventer keeps the water supply from being contaminated.)
“The part is not on island,” Kamemoto said. “We need to bring the part in, which we’re doing as expeditiously as possible. We do thank everybody for their patience, and we’re sorry about the inconvenience that this is causing.”
The Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center and the UH Medical School and Cancer Center operate on a different backflow preventer and are not affected, Kamemoto said.
Clients at the Family Assessment Center were invited to use the showers and bathrooms at the nearby Next Step Shelter operated by Waikiki Health.
“The problem is isolated to the park, and the Family Assessment Center is part of that,” Kamemoto said.
Adrian Contreras, the Family Assessment Center’s program director, brought in 5-gallon, office-style water bottles for clients’ drinking water and has ordered two portable toilets that are expected to arrive today.
Contreras said he appreciated everyone’s efforts to help homeless families at the Family Assessment Center who are now without running water.
“We’re grateful for Next Step and all of the social services agencies,” he said. “We’re appreciative for all of that.”