Kaua‘i County and hotel developer respond to recent wastewater spills at Coco Palms

Listen to this Article
3 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

Two recent wastewater spills at the Wailua Coco Palms sewer pump station, expected to accommodate a 350-room hotel currently under construction, have added to public opposition to the development. However, county officials and the hotel developer assert that the sewer issues are not linked to the hotelʻs construction. 

County officials announced the first incident in a statement on April 12, attributing it to recent heavy rains that overwhelmed the station and created spills. 

“The potentially contaminated area would include the Lydgate Beach Park makai of the roadway, including the Kamalani Park playground and the pavilions. At this time, crews have managed to stop the spill at Wailua,” the county statement said.

Subsequently, on May 1, county officials said that a malfunction in the pump’s critical controller had resulted in a wastewater spill of approximately 6,000 gallons in Wailua on April 30. The contaminated spill area was reportedly confined within a fenced-off construction yard.

“The electrical control failure at Coco Palms sewer pump station was an anomaly,” said Wastewater Division Chief Donald Fujimoto, who is on temporary assignment for the position, in a response to Kauaʻi Now.

Fujimoto emphasized that the issue was not caused by the construction by Utah developer Reef Capitals Partners, who is working to restore the historic Coco Palms Hotel by 2026.


“A failure of this nature never happened before and was not due to construction at the sewer pump station or adjacent Coco Palms Hotel construction. However, due to the impact of this event, we are working on modifying the electrical system to avoid similar future problems.”

The county faced public criticism for the May 1 statement on their Facebook page, with all 53 comments under the post expressing negative opinions of the county or hotel developer. 

“How about you not add a hotel that would totally make it overflow everyday,” said one Facebook user in a comment that received 72 likes. “If this isn’t more of a sign to leave that area alone idk what is… The island is warning you,” wrote another commenter. 

Save Kōloa, a community group dedicated to protecting cultural sites, wrote, “I think the corruption inside the county of Kauaʻi almost smells as bad as the sewage plant,” in a comment that received 37 likes.

However, representatives for Reef Capital Partners say they are not involved with the wastewater issue and directed all questions to the county. 


“This incident was not caused by construction on Coco Palms’ property but rather occurred on the County’s parcel due to failure of a critical pump controller,” said Reef Capitalʻs communications adviser Shane Peters.  “We simply didn’t have anything to do with the events at their sewer facility.” 

“Coco Palms has received all necessary permit approvals from the County and through that process, they affirmed the project’s ability to tie into the municipal wastewater system,” Peters added.

According to Fujimoto, the Wailua wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) is only at 50% of the permitted capacity, and the plant is able to handle the additional sewage from the hotel development.

“Under normal conditions (excluding extraordinary rain events) Wailua WWTP has sufficient sewer capacity to address cesspool conversion in high-density areas as well as accept flows from the Coco Palms Hotel or other commercial development,” Fujimoto said.

The recent sewage issue follows the state Board of Land and Natural Resourcesʻ recent decision to grant Reef Capital the rights to state-owned land parcels at the site over a non-profit group aiming to stop the development.


Before that, in March the County of Kauaʻi Planning Commission denied a community group standing in their efforts to halt the project, allowing construction to continue.

At a county meeting in October 2023, County Council Chair Mel Rapozo questioned how the Planning Commission could have validated Reef Capitalʻs permits, given they were issued nearly a decade ago. Like others opposed to the development, he raised concerns about population changes, sea level rise, and an increase in housing shortages since 2014. 

At that time, Rapozo suggested having an outside attorney, not affiliated with the county or planning department, review the permits and conduct an audit of the process. “Have that attorney review all the steps along the way to tell us if in fact, as of 2023, is everything right?” Rapozo had said at the meeting. 

Kauaʻi Now reached out to Rapozo to see if he followed through with an audit of the process. However, Rapozo did not respond.

Emma Grunwald

Read Full Bio

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments