Hawaii’s waters are more polluted than previously thought

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now admitting that there are 30 coastal waters and 81 streams in the state of Hawaii that show evidence of impairment by pollutants such as sediment, nutrients, bacteria, and litter, increasing the organisation’s previous estimate of polluted waters by 480%.

A new list of polluted waters published by the EPA has increased the number of waters that are registered as polluted by 92. A previous register from 1998 had listed only 19 waters in the state as being polluted, but following a court order resulting from an action brought by the Hihiwai Stream Restoration Coalition, the EPA was instructed to review the list, and is now seeking public comment on the revised register.

“Hawaii’s water pollution problems are usually along shorelines and in middle-to-lower reaches of streams where silt and excess nutrients damage the environment,” said Deputy Director for Environmental Health at the Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) Gary Gill. “Reduced stream water flow, alien plants and animal species, and concrete channels also harm many of our streams.”

Of the polluted waters, 58 are on the island of Oahu – home to three quarters of the state’s population and the site of Honolulu, 15 on Maui, 20 on Hawaii, 16 on Kauai, and two on Molokai.

“The revised list will help EPA and Hawaii Department of Health focus on specific polluted beaches and streams, and on how we can address causes of pollution such as runoff from urban and agricultural areas,” said Director of the EPA’s Pacific Southwest water division Alexis Strauss.

Since 1998, the HDOH has revised their water quality monitoring programme, and intends to issue a new list of polluted waters in October 2002 based on all available water quality information.

Comments on the new list of impaired waters in Hawaii should be sent to: David Smith, TMDL Team Leader, EPA Region IX, WTR-2, 75 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, CA 94105; fax (415) 947 3537.

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