Maui group urges county
to stop adding chemical
to water


Monday, May 31, 2004

Chloramine is a disinfectant, and Jacky Takakura is the Maui County water department spokeswoman. A May 8 story on Page A5 incorrectly said chloramine was a phosphate inhibitor and also misspelled Takakura's first name as Jackie.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

WAILUKU » A Maui group said it wants government officials to halt the use of a chemical in drinking water because tests show it can increase the amount of lead.

The Maui Coalition for Safe Water said scientific tests show chloramine, a phosphate inhibitor, when combined with phosphoric acid actually increases the amount of lead leaching into drinking water.

Chloramine has been used in the Upper Kula water system on Maui to control bacteria. The Upper Kula water system serves almost 2,000 households.

The county Water Department has scheduled a community meeting about the chemical-additive issue for 7 p.m. May 18 at Pukalani Elementary School cafeteria.

Besides indications that chemicals might be increasing the lead content in drinking water, residents have complained that phosphate-based additives have caused health problems including skin, eye and throat irritation.

"I haven't been able to take a bath in my own home for 2 1/2 years," said coalition member Lois Laird, 76. "I have permanent scars on my body from this water."

Phosphate-based inhibitors have been used since July 2001 to coat county water pipes to prevent the leaching of lead in drinking water.

State Health Department administrator Lorrin Pang said preliminary tests show the lead content in some samples of Upcountry water increased above federal safe drinking water standards of 15 parts per billion after phosphate inhibitors were added to the water.

Pang said the lead levels went from about 14 to 16 parts per billion to up to 41 parts per billion in the Upper Kula water line.

Pang said the number of samples were "small" and that a more extensive testing is scheduled to start later this month.

County water spokeswoman Jackie Takakura said the test will cost about $20,000 and be conducted by Marc Edwards, a professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Takakura said water officials hope to determine whether the combination of phosphate-based inhibitors and chloramine raises lead levels in Upper Kula lines.

Edwards testified this year before Congress that the Environmental Protection Agency's procedures are not adequately protecting consumers from excessive levels of lead in drinking water.

He said water treatment changes, including the use of chloramine, are harming home plumbing systems.

County water officials have said they face stiff federal fines if they do not continue to meet EPA guidelines requiring the use of corrosive inhibitors to reduce the leaching of lead.


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