Maui to remove additive
from its drinking water

By Gary T. Kubota

MAKAWAO, Maui >> State and county officials have agreed to remove a chemical from drinking water suspected of causing skin irritation to dozens of Maui Upcountry residents.

The chemical zinc orthophosphate has been used to coat pipes and reduce the leaching of lead into the water.

County Water Director George Tengan said instead, food-grade phosphoric acid will be put into the water to hopefully have the same results in reducing the lead.

Tengan said the change will be made in about two weeks once he is able to obtain the new chemicals.

The announcement was made during a meeting with state and county officials at Eddie Tam Gym's social hall Thursday night, attended by about 70 people.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, the state health administrator on Maui, said he is persuaded that it would be in residents' best interest to remove zinc orthophosphate.

"I think there's enough evidence now to stop it and start an alternative," he said.

Meanwhile, while residents were happy about the removal, a number them were still dissatisfied with the addition of phosphoric acid.

Herb Squires, a Pukalani resident, said he does not want the county adding any more chemicals in the water, and planned to file a lawsuit against government officials if they added phosphoric acid.

Pang said the phosphoric acid needed to be added to comply with federal environmental standards.

Since June 2001 the county has been adding zinc orthophosphate to reduce the lead content in drinking water in Kula, Makawao and Pukalani.

Testing in 2000 showed more than 10 percent of the homes in the region recorded a lead level at 37 parts per billion, exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards requiring less than 15 parts per billion.

Severe lead poisoning can lead to miscarriages and birth defects.

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