Mercury in Kauai wellBy Anthony Sommer
may come from pump
WAILUA HOMESTEADS, Kauai -- The Kauai Water Department has asked 1,700 homeowners to cut water usage by at least 35 percent for at least one week while they replace a pump in a well that tested positive for traces of mercury.
Water officials believe the source of the mercury is a 10-year-old submersible pump in the well. Mercury pollution in another well 50 feet away previously was traced to that well's pump and it has been shut down since February.
The contamination was 1.3 parts per billion, below the 2 parts per billion federal standard. The Water Department said it was changing the pumps as a precaution.
Health officials said mercury does not occur naturally in Hawaii and has never been found in a well before. A drawing from Byron Jackson, the pump's manufacturer, shows mercury seals on the pumps.
The voluntary reductions are to begin Monday. Asked whether homeowners seen washing cars or watering lawns would be cited, Water Director Ernest Lau said, "C'mon. This is Kauai."
If it turns out the pumps were not the source of the pollution, new wells will be required, which could take several months, Lau said. The removal and replacement of one pump costs about $60,000.
Kauai has 15 separate water systems, most built during plantation days and none are connected to each other. The cutbacks affect 10 percent of the 17,000 homes served by the county.