Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Acid-free water tankers
serve Upcountry Maui

Some residents blame allergies
on water treated by the county

WAILUKU >> Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa is providing several tankers of water without the phosphoric acid some Upcountry residents believe has caused allergies and other health problems.

But Maui Water Board member Ginny Parsons said Arakawa is taking too long to resolve complaints about Upcountry water and is failing to tell the public enough about potential dangers.

"Where's the educational system that tells the people what to do in the meantime?" Parsons asked. "It's more than just making drinking water available."

Arakawa said most remarks by Parsons, a supporter and appointee of unseated Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana, are inaccurate and "political."

The Arakawa administration announced yesterday that the county would begin providing 400-gallon tankers of phosphoric acid-free drinking water at the Haiku Community Center, Eddie Tam Memorial Gym in Makawao, Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani, and the Kula Community Center.

Phosphoric acid, an additive to coat pipes and reduce the leaching of lead, has been put into the Upcountry drinking water system since July 2001.

Some residents have complained that since the phosphoric acid was added, they have experienced a number of health problems, including skin, throat and eye irritation.

A number of residents have said they travel to other areas to get water for bathing.

Arakawa said his administration is exploring alternatives to the corrosion inhibitor system required by the federal government to reduce lead in drinking water.

He said in the meantime his administration is doing what it can to relieve reported skin irritations, such as provide water without phosphoric acid.

"We will continue to supply this water to our Upcountry communities as long as necessary," Arakawa said.

"Providing potable water to the affected communities now will allow people to draw" phosphoric acid-free water near their homes, the mayor said.

Parsons said the Apana administration had a plan to reduce the need for the corrosion inhibitor by adding about 2 million gallons of water a day from a new well at Pookela mauka of Makawao Town.

Parsons said the Arakawa administration had promised residents the tankers more than two weeks ago and was not telling the public enough about safety measures.

Arakawa said three of the four tankers needed to be cleaned and the water tested for health certification.

He said the Pookela well had to undergo a series of engineering and pump studies and will be ready by mid-2005.

Arakawa said even if the well at Pookela were operating, it would be only one portion of the solution to reducing additives in drinking water.

County water spokeswoman Jacky Takakura said her office has been providing information about measures residents can take to reduce the likelihood of lead in drinking water, such as letting the faucet flush for a minute before using it.

She said the county has been offering free kits to people who want to test the lead content of their domestic drinking water.

Takakura said the adverse health effect of phosphoric acid on customers has yet to be proved and is more of an issue that falls under the state Health Department.

Customers are asked to call 270-7633 if the tankers are empty or if they see any suspicious activity around them or witness abusive use of the water.


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