Work underway to keep travelers from getting drenched at state’s busiest airport

Last February, we shared video of what appeared to be a waterfall coming from the ceiling of Hawaii’s busiest airport.

Heavy rain streamed down walls, drenching luggage at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Last week Tuesday, we received video showing yet another leaky ceiling at the airport.

We wanted to know how the Hawaii Department of Transportation plans to fix the issue, and when it will be resolved.

Transportation officials say they’re doing what they can to fix the leaks. Several areas have already been repaired, and plans are in place to mend the rest.

“We are cognizant of the leaks that are occurring at the airport, and we are tackling them as they occur,” said Ross Higashi, deputy director of the department’s Airports Division. “A lot of the problems that have occurred over the last year have been rectified.”

But making those repairs hasn’t been easy.

Baggage claim E in the overseas terminal, for example, has nine pillars, and for each one, crews need to saw through four inches of concrete in order to fix a pipe.

Old drainage pipes are one of the reasons we’re seeing so much flooding during heavy rains. Transportation officials say there are tons of them, and most of them are very hard to get to.

“They’re all buried within the walls and columns,” explained DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara. “To go in and replace each and every one of them, one, would be very invasive, and would cause a big disruption to the operations, which we can’t just close down being a 24/7 facility, an airport.”

So why not just put a whole new roof over each of the buildings?

Officials say they do plan to replace the roof of the overseas terminal, but that won’t work over the Diamond Head and Ewa concourses.

“There’s vents, pipes. There’s equipment. There’s air conditioners. There’s a lot of things on the roof, so in some areas, we won’t be able to add a new roof to the existing roof,” Sakahara said.

The plan to fix the drains in those areas is different.

“You want to inspect the drains, and the ones that are cracked have the protective sleeve in it in order to prevent the leaks,” Sakahara said.

The second thing that’s causing leaks are old expansion joints. In one stairwell, we spotted discoloration from water constantly dripping.

One expansion joint is being worked on, but because the airport can’t close, it takes much longer to fix.

The repairs will be done in two separate projects.

Both bids for contractors will be open this February, officials say, with an estimated date of completion in summer 2019.

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