The EPA awards $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 Hawaii 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 Hawaii 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 Hawaii 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.

Seas Only Hope for World Water Supply, Says Spain

The world's fast-growing thirst for water can only be met by purifying sea water as rivers and reservoirs become unable to meet demand, Spain said on Thursday unveiling a major program to fight its own chronic shortages.

Spain's Socialist government, elected in March, has ditched plans to reroute the country's longest river to irrigate its parched southeast, saying it would harm fragile wetlands in the north, cost too much and not provide enough water anyway.

Under new proposals, a variety of smaller schemes to improve existing infrastructure and build desalination plants would provide 1,063 cubic hectometers of water -- or just under three percent of Spain's consumption -- much of it for agriculture and tourism along the Mediterranean coast.

"Sea water, experts tell us, is the water of the future for humanity because continental fresh water will increasingly suffer from problems of scarcity, pollution and supply," Narbona told a news conference, saying Spain aimed to be at the vanguard of desalination techniques.

Spain, which suffers annual water shortages, has been using the technology for 30 years and has 700 such plants -- making it the world's fifth highest consumer.

The new program will cost an estimated 3.8 billion euros. Spain's proposals received a warm welcome from EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and Madrid hopes the European Union will cover up to 1.26 billion euros of its cost.

The first water under the new scheme is expected to flow in 2005, the minister said. To accompany the plan, the government will launch a campaign to educate Spaniards on the importance of conserving water.

It will also attempt to classify more accurately how water is used in Spain, one of Europe's most arid countries where summer demand is swelled by millions of tourists who pack its sweltering coastal resorts.

Under the new scheme, water will be priced according to its intended use: farmers will face the lowest charges, with industry paying a little more and tourist facilities and golf courses paying the most.

The government hopes the energy-intensive desalination plants could be powered, at least in part, by renewable energy. After consultation with the private sector, Narbona said this could require additional research that could be funded by the government.


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