Contrary to the statements that Mayor Alan Arakawa recently made that ocean waters near the Lahaina injection wells are safe (The Maui News, Dec. 22), bacteria is far from the only injection well pollutant that Maui residents should be concerned about.
The Environmental Protection Agency's recently released study determined several things that would disturb anyone who cares about the health of coastal waters, and reaffirms why a Clean Water Act lawsuit was filed over these discharges in April.
The county injects 3 million to 5 million gallons of wastewater into the ground every day at Lahaina and, per the EPA study, the majority of the water discharged from the nearshore submarine seeps comes from the wells. Wastewater makes it to the ocean in less than three months and affects the temperature and chemistry of the surrounding ocean water.
Nitrogen, phosphorous and other substances flow from the wells out to the ocean, causing damage to the reefs and to nearshore water quality. The county started disinfecting its injected wastewater in October 2011 because of an enforcement action by EPA, which may explain why the Department of Health isn't finding high levels of bacteria at the seeps now, but says nothing about what the bacteria levels were before disinfection.
Coral reefs are extremely sensitive and any changes to the environment can affect their health. The county must use the information it has to clean up and reduce its wastewater discharges. Until it does, West Maui waters will be neither clean nor safe.
President, Hawai'i Wildlife Fund