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EPA awards $497,000 grant to County of Maui for Upcountry drinking water systems

Release Date: 9/1/2004
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, (808) 541-2711

HONOLULU -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded $497,100 to the County of Maui Department of Water Supply to promote safe drinking water in the Upcountry Maui drinking water systems.

Funding will focus on addressing risks from lead that can be leached from home plumbing fixtures, as well as overall drinking water quality in Upcountry Maui. The grant was sponsored by Hawai'i Senator Daniel K. Inouye at the request of the Upcountry Maui residents.

"This grant will support ongoing efforts to ensure safe drinking water for Maui residents," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA Pacific Southwest Region's Water Division. "A primary objective will be to ensure that families are not exposed to elevated lead in their tap water."

The county, the Hawai'i Department of Health, Upcountry Maui residents and state and federal drinking water officials are consulting on the following projects:

-The County of Maui Department of Water Supply will study Upcountry Maui drinking water system operations, lead contamination, corrosion control, disinfection, water quality and mitigation.

-The Hawai'i Department of Health will conduct the free blood lead screening program for infants, children and pregnant women and follow-up educational activities.

-Upcountry Maui community members will develop and conduct a water quality educational outreach program for reducing lead exposure from drinking water in homes.

Several meetings have been held over the last several months with the different groups to organize these efforts. This has resulted in a detailed work plan for activities to be funded by the grant.

Lead may cause a range of health effects, including behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Children six years old and younger are most at risk, because their bodies are growing quickly. The EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act requires that all water suppliers monitor for lead in their drinking water sources. Water suppliers need to take steps to reduce the corrosiveness of water sources to prevent lead from leaching into drinking water from older lead piping in homes.

Federal law also requires the use of "lead free" pipe, solder and flux in the installation or repair of any public water system, or any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility connected to a public water system. Although states have banned all use of lead materials in drinking water systems, such bans do not eliminate lead contamination in older plumbing.