POSTED: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Key day for civil-unions legislation

A divided Hawaii Senate will vote today on whether to revive civil unions for gay couples after the legislation had stalled.

It only takes nine people in the 25-member Senate to take the extraordinary step of forcing the civil-unions bill onto the Senate floor, but the vote may be close.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) and Judiciary Chairman Brian Taniguchi (D, Moiliili-Manoa) intend to oppose the maneuver to pull the bill from a committee, which deadlocked in a 3-3 tie over the issue.

As many as 18 senators have said they support civil unions, but many of them won't vote to pull the bill without the support of leadership.

Majority Leader Gary Hooser (D, Kauai, Niihau) will make the motion to yank the bill onto the Senate floor.


Solvents found in Maui water

Minute amounts of certain volatile organic chemicals were found in two Maui water systems during routine sampling of drinking water systems across the state, the Department of Health reported yesterday.

The chemicals were detected at the Kamole Weir clear well of the Maui Department of Water Supply's Makawao water system, which serves about 27,000 people, and at the Consolidated Baseyard system in Wailuku, which serves about 25 people.

Laurence Lau, deputy director for environmental health, said the findings aren't a health threat, but the Health Department “;will continue to monitor these systems to ensure that public health is not compromised.”;

Ethylbenzene, used as a solvent for coatings, was found at 3.0 parts per billion in the Makawao system. The federal and state Maximum Contaminant Level is 700 ppb.

The standards are set to avoid health risks based on lifetime consumption of water with that level of contaminant, the Health Department said.

Toluene, also a solvent, was found at 4.6 parts per billion, compared with the federal and state maximum contaminant level of 1,000 ppb.

Also detected were m-Xylene and p-Xylene (combined) at 11.0 ppb, and o-Xylene at 2.8 ppb. The MCL for total Xylenes is 10,000 ppb.

The Health Department said the chemicals are believed to stem from an epoxy coating used in the new clear well.

A trace amount of the herbicide atrazine also was detected in the baseyards system in Wailuku.


Stimulus funds will aid Maui airport

State officials will receive $15 million in federal economic stimulus money to maintain the apron pavement at Kahului Airport on Maui.

The money, a grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will provide maintenance for routine wear, U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka said yesterday.