The world’s largest surfing wave pool just opened in Oahu as Hawaiians continue to face a water crisis
Oahu, the Hawaiian island known for some of the best surfing in the world, has a new site off its coast — a freshwater pool dubbed the “world’s largest standing deep-water surf wave.” . But the pond, filled with fragile aquifers, opened amid an ongoing water crisis, angering many who say the tourist attraction has become a tourist attraction because locals are suffering.
Wai Kai Commercial Development announced The LineUp at WaiKai pool in January 2021 as part of a $40 million recreation center. The group said it has “the world’s largest deep-water standing surf wave” called Wai Kai Wave – which measures 100 feet – and the center also has a 52-acre recreational lake that each ” It will be a first-of-its-kind attraction. ”
The Eva Beach Wave Pool holds 1.7 million gallons of fresh water – the equivalent of about 2.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And the water for this was taken from the aquifer, a resource that is becoming increasingly fragile on the island as recent and widespread water pollution incidents and environmental problems have forced local people to use fresh water for their basic daily needs. Access to water has been narrowed. .
“Chemicals Forever” in Wave Pool Water Sources
Larry Caster, director of retail development in Wai-kai, told CBS News that the water that comes into the pool is supplied by the city and county of Honolulu through the Makakilo well, which supplies water to residents and businesses in the area. Also used to provide. He said the decision to use the reservoir was made “after consultation with scientists and others.”
And the use of that well only highlights a bigger problem plaguing the island’s freshwater system: PFAS.
Also known as “forever chemicals”, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that take a long time to break down and are found in many areas of everyday life, causing They accumulate easily. body and environment.
The contamination has been making headlines in Hawaii since it was discovered. 1,100 gallon water film forming foam (AFFF) was released from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s Red Hill Bulk Storage Facility in November 2022, releasing excessive levels of PFAS into the surrounding area. The same storage facility, located less than 20 miles away, is also the site of a massive jet fuel spill in 2021.
In February, the state health department announced that at least one of the thousands of these chemicals — perfluoropentanoic acid (PFPeA) — had been found in Makakilo well water. The substance, the DOH said, “is not a drinking water regulator” and is one of several.PFAS of concern“Which has been found widely in the environment and requires further study.
He said the amount of contamination found in the well was “well below” Environmental Action Level standards, but those standards are set by the state and the chemical was not covered by the EPA. Recent proposal for the first national limit on PFAS in drinking water.
“Although long-term consumption of drinking water with PFAS may pose a health risk, the low levels of PFAS in the Avalanche water system do not pose a serious health risk,” the health department said in a Feb. I said. “No immediate action is necessary for users of the system. However, concerned individuals can use the home filtration option to reduce PFAS.”
A spokesperson for The Lineup told CBS News that the wave pool operates under the same rules as swimming pools in Hawaii and, as such, is “regularly tested and treated as required by the Hawaii State Department of Health.” Is.”
They have not yet responded to CBS News’ request for the date of the last testing and the PFAS levels recorded.
“A painful place for our community”
The Honolulu Board of Water Supply, which has expressed significant concern about the island’s water problems, approved the opening of Wai Kai Lahar – but without pause.
Ernest Lau, manager and chief engineer of the Board of Water Supply, told CBS News that the opening of the pool is “unfortunate” but that the site in charge has long had a water meter and the board does not have such policies. Which says that such ponds are not allowed.
“The wave pool, it’s a sore spot for our community,” he said. “And we’re learning from it.”
For the nearly 1 million people who live on the island of Oahu and the millions more who visit each year, freshwater conservation is vital.
“As an island state, Hawaii has limited access to natural fresh water supplies,” the state’s Commission for Water Resources Management says on its website. “Competition for fresh water, growing population and development pressures, growing awareness of environmental water needs, and the effects of global climate change require that Hawaii be more efficient in using its limited fresh water supply.” be.”
According to the US Geological Survey, the island has long struggled with drought and has seen “severe” conditions in recent years. Although not currently in such circumstances, 47% of the state’s flow sites are below normal, according to the USGS.
Lau told CBS News that the wave pool is not exempt from water conservation efforts.
“It’s going to use a lot of fresh water to fill the pond. And every five years, they have to replace that water in the pond, so it’s a big use of fresh water every now and then,” Lau said. That said, he added that developers told him that using seawater or recycled wastewater instead “wasn’t an option they could really handle.”
Lau said the water supply board has urged developers to “practice better water conservation,” but ultimately the decision to do so “is up to them.”
But if there is a shortage and the board imposes water restrictions, wave pool operators “will have to reduce their use just like everyone else,” Lau said.
Lineup developers have or plan to implement a number of sustainability efforts, including plans to become a Sustainable Tourism and Outdoors Kit for Evaluation (STOKE)-certified surf park. Castor said they will also donate money to water and marine life restoration programs and will not allow single-use plastics on the property.
But for local resident and water rights activist Helani Sonoda Paley, the opening of the tidal pool is “madness.”
“They’re opening the largest wave pool on the island of Oahu in a water crisis,” he told CBS News. “…They’re 100 feet away from families who don’t have access to clean drinking water. And there you see the disparity between the haves and have-nots of how the industry will continue, despite the fact that their neighbors Pain.”
In the nearby residential area of Kaplana Beach Homes, residents have been facing water pollution issues ever since In 2021, jet fuel spilled into the water system from Red Hill.. As of November, many people there – about 5 miles from The Lineup – were still reporting signs of contamination, according to local reports, and volunteers continue to distribute bottled water to homes every month. .
“It’s right next to the surf spot. It doesn’t need to be,” Sonoda Pele said of The Lineup. “It’s a waste of clean drinking water and it’s all in the service of the tourism industry.”
Wayne Tanaka, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, told CBS News that the wave pool is a “strange arrangement.”
“Using drinking water in the midst of a water crisis is yet another example of supporting a profit-seeking enterprise where Western assumptions and priorities have truly overtaken the understanding that water is a precious and finite resource,” Tanaka said. “There is,” Tanaka said, “and that we have to protect it and use it for the benefit of all and not treat it as just a commodity.”
When asked about criticism of the wave pool, Castor said site officials are aware of “questions and confusion” about water use. He said that the daily demand for water will be limited to the extent that needs to be replenished by evaporation.
“Many of our neighbors are very excited about the opening and look forward to experiencing the outdoor recreation, new restaurants, waterfront promenade and more,” he said, adding that they look for ways to conserve water. and will “implement best management practices where we can.”