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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, May 24, 2004

Maui to reduce, change additive in Upcountry water supply

Advertiser Staff

WAILUKU, Maui — In response to continuing consumer complaints about skin rashes and other health problems, the Maui Department of Water Supply has started reducing the amount of phosphoric acid added to the Upcountry water system.

Mayor Alan Arakawa said the move is the first step in a series of actions the county will be taking to eventually eliminate the chemical additive from the system and replace it with soda ash or another substance. The water department is under orders from the state Department of Health, acting on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to reduce high levels of lead caused by leaching of pipes in some older Upcountry homes.

More than 120 complaints about itchy skin, rashes and other problems have been received since 2001, when the water department began adding zinc orthophosphate, a compound designed to control the leaching.

The water department switched to phosphoric acid last year, but the complaints have persisted.

District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang said the Department of Health wants to document cases that may be linked to the water system, and is asking those affected to be briefly interviewed and photographed this weekend at the Pukalani Community Center parking lot.

This data will help determine whether changes in water additives are having an effect, Pang said.

The information will be kept confidential, he said.

Upcountry residents with rashes and other symptoms may stop by from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 31.

For more information, call Pang at (808) 984-8200; for information on the phosphate reduction, contact water department spokeswoman Jacky Takakura at (808) 270-8046.