U.S. Water News Online
WAILUKU, Hawaii -- Maui County has conditional state
approval to stop adding a chemical to water in the Upcountry area
that residents say causes itching and rashes.
The state's Safe Drinking Water Branch granted conditional
approval to end use of phosphoric acid to control lead levels in the
water and replace it with a process using soda ash.
More than 150 Upcountry residents have complained of allergic
reactions and other health problems they blame on county water in
Under the conditional approval, the county will be required to
first monitor water for harmful levels of nitrites and nitrates.
William Wong, chief of the safe water branch, said in a letter
that undetected nitrification in the water system could limit the
effectiveness of the new process.
Mayor Alan Arakawa said he wants to stop the use of phosphoric
acid as soon as possible, hopefully within a month.
"I have ordered that steps toward meeting the ... conditions be
taken immediately so the county can terminate the use of phosphoric
acid as soon as is practicable,'' Arakawa said.
The acid has been added to Upcountry water since July 2002. It
results in a coating on the interior of old pipes, preventing lead
from leaching into the water supply.
The soda ash method has proved to be effective, but Wong said it
also has to be regulated to prevent increased sodium levels in the
Jacky Takakura, a water department spokesman, said the county was
able to reduce phosphoric acid levels last month when lead levels
fell below federal levels that require treatment.
The county has a $500,000 federal grant to conduct water studies.
Earlier this month, the state Health Department said it would
conduct a study to determine if phosphoric acid was causing the
allergic reactions in residents.
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