Hawaiian Falls found violating federal child labor laws

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) - Hawaiian Falls water park locations around the state, including Pflugerville, have been penalized by the U.S. Department of Labor for violations of federal child labor laws.

Minor employees at the water park's Pflugerville location were found exposed to hazardous conditions, using dangerous equipment and working outside permitted hours, according to a Labor Department news release.

Seven locations throughout the state were found with child labor violations. The parks have been ordered to pay $86,000 in penalties, according to the Labor Department.

Pflugerville officials, who backed a $25 million loan to build the park, have billed Hawaiian Falls as a local economic engine and job creator for young adults. But since opening in 2014, the park has struggled to generate profits, undergone significant layoffs, been hit with lawsuits, changed ownership and missed at least one scheduled payment to the city.

According to the Department of Labor, workers under the age of 16 were found operating gas-powered pressure washers, open-flame grills, automatic rotisseries, pizza ovens and walk-in freezers. In addition, dozens of those employees were found working outside permitted work hours.

Hawaiian Falls public relations provided the following prepared statement: "This case was settled in May 2015 following an audit by the Department of Labor. Hawaiian Falls has changed its policies and no longer hires 15 year olds. The company has implemented new training for all managers about the hiring practices and the waterparks are in complete compliance."

The Pflugerville Economic Development Corp. did not immediately respond to a request for comment. We will update this story as more information becomes available.

The Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division conducted seven Hawaiian Falls investigations in Garland, Mansfield, Roanoke, Pflugerville, The Colony, White Settlement and Waco.

Rocky history

To build the park, the Pflugerville EDC took out $25 million in loans. The city owns the park and land, while Hawaiian Falls operates the facility and pays the principle and interest owed to the bank.

The park opened late in 2014. In its first year, Harvest Family Entertainment, the park's parent company, lost more than $784,000, according to records obtained by KXAN through the Texas Public Information Act.

In December of 2014, Hawaiian Falls went through a round of layoffs and employee furloughs. In May of 2015, Atlanta-based private equity firm Source Capital LLC bought the water park chain. According to media reports, Hawaiian Falls defaulted on its payments to the city in October. City officials said the company is back on track with its payments.

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