Skip to comments.In a Sparkling State, Goo Fills the Symbolic Pools
Posted on 05/30/2004 2:40:37 PM PDT by Willie Green
For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.
HONOLULU, May 29 - Most mornings, as a swirl of aloha shirts, muumuus, business suits and dangling security passes crisscrosses the broad steps and open-air courtyard of the Capitol, workers in knee-high rubber boots slosh in the building's two vast reflecting pools, vacuuming up great green gobs of goo.
Hawaii's 35-year-old Capitol is a modernist landmark, awash in island symbolism. White pillars, reminiscent of royal palm trees, form the perimeter, with the center open to the sun, wind and rain. The House and Senate chambers are swooping cones of volcanic stone rising from two enormous pools that are meant to evoke the crystalline Pacific Ocean.
Except they do not. The pools are fetid and furry with algae, and have been for decades. The state has tried and failed to keep them clean almost since the day the building was dedicated in 1969.
"It's a nice idea, but there's a smell to it," said Alan Shimono, an accountant at the nearby State Department of Education who passes through the Capitol nearly every day.
Blame the brackish water pumped in from underground wells for both the algae and its low-tide stench. It was used to spare fresh water, precious in the islands, but its plentiful nutrients combined with the tropical sunshine have helped create the problem. Chlorine tablets, enzymes, ozone treatments, pumps and even tilapia, a voracious, virtually indestructible fish, have been deployed over the years to try to conquer the problem.
But all those efforts have left is plenty to do for the aquatic chimney sweeps, who are joined twice a week by about 10 prison inmates.
So now the state is considering longer-term solutions.
"I would prefer to see the pools much more attractive and the Capitol represent much more closely this beautiful state that we live in," said Russ Saito, state comptroller and director of the Department of Accounting and General Services.
Mr. Saito recently received a study that outlines possible repairs and renovations addressing not only the algae, but the pools' decaying beauty. The study was done by Architects Hawaii Ltd., which designed the award-winning building along with a San Francisco architect, John Carl Warnecke, just after statehood was granted in 1959. Mr. Saito said the study suggested renovations like improving the circulation pumps, installing a sophisticated filter system that would turn the brackish water nearly fresh, and resurfacing the pool's rough, algae-friendly bottom with smooth ceramic tile, possibly an oceanlike blue.
"You could just clean the bottom of the pool with a squeegee then," Mr. Saito said. "Right now it's almost like brushing teeth down there."
Mr. Saito estimated that a complete refurbishment could cost up to $6 million.
Deciding whether to ask for the money, or part of it, when the Legislature reconvenes in January will involve weighing the project against other priorities in times of a tight budget. Mr. Saito said the department would use existing money to try concentrating the current treatments - ozone and enzymes - and giving them better circulation throughout the pools by improving some of the pumps. By the time the lawmakers return, he said, the water should be cleaner and relatively free of algae, though the pools will still be cracked in places and still have their rusty green hue.
He rejected the idea of stinking out the lawmakers by letting the algae grow to Godzilla proportions. "They would see through that in a second," he said. "And that's a building that's not just for them, it's for the public as well, and that's who complains the most."
On an ordinary day, hundreds of people pass through the Capitol, and many have ideas about what should be done.
"It would be nice if they tiled it and made it look like a pool," said Leslie, who did not want to give her last name because she works in the building. "If it's supposed to represent the ocean, it should be blue."
Penrose Anderson, a visitor from Los Angeles, declared the building "magnificent." "Except for this silly moat," Ms. Anderson said. "How can all that standing water ever be anything but trouble?"
Over the years many ideas have been put forth: fill the pools with grass, sand, tile, gardens. But Mr. Saito said the state's historic preservation division, which reviews projects on historic properties, has said that since the pools were designed to evoke the ocean, the water must remain.
"The pools are important because they represent the water of Hawaii, and this whole state Capitol is supposed to be a replica of Hawaii," said Marion Poirier, who passes through each day on her way to work at a nearby nonprofit group. "Some people say maybe we shouldn't be spending money on this, but others of us think it's an important part of the Capitol."
It's been my observation over the years that governments are very efficient at spending massive amounts of money on public buildings and very poor at maintaining them. This is compounded by the shoddy work many Davis-Bacon contractors get away with owing to the influence of their legislative and admministative "friends".
Since it is a government building, there should be lots of lawyers there. Since mouth breathing, scum sucking, bottom feeders are needed to remove the algae- solve the problem by requiring some pro bono work of the lawyers.
I suggest assigning specific parts of the bottom to individual lawyers. This way the burden will be equally distributed.
Chlorine tablets, enzymes, ozone treatments, pumps and even tilapia, a voracious, virtually indestructible fish, have been deployed over the years to try to conquer the problem.
Been there done that, it didn't work. (The tilapia are larger than any of those suggested at your link, so while it wouldn't take one for every 10 gallons of water, it would still take an awfully lot of them.
You gotta admit, if you are gonna do time, you might as well do it in Hawaii.