EPA completes 17 miles of sewer line inspection; continues sampling drinking water lines impacted by Maui wildfires : Maui Now

EPA employee opens a fire hydrant to collect a sample. PC: EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has completed inspections of sewer lines in Lahaina as part of its response to the Maui wildfires in August 2023. The EPA removed debris such as sediment, rocks, rags and grease from the pipes.

After the evacuation, a robotic camera was used to assess the condition of the pipes and identify any effects of the fire. The video footage was provided to the district for review. This work will allow Maui County to prioritize emergency repairs of the damage caused by the wildfires, including repairs necessary to protect the wastewater treatment plant from excessive water intrusion through damaged sewer pipes.

“Collaboration in Lahaina will continue as we determine the most efficient path forward,” said Karl Banks, EPA director of operations for Maui Wildfire Response, in an updated news release. “EPA is privileged to continue to support the Maui County Department of Water Resources and Department of Environmental Management, along with the Hawaii Department of Health, as we advance inspection and mitigation of critical infrastructure. Our shared goal is for the people of Lahaina to return to their homes with a safe and reliable water supply as quickly as possible.”

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“The Maui County Department of Environmental Management is grateful for EPA’s support and assistance in assessing the damage to our existing wastewater collection system in Lahaina. Due to DEM’s limited resources (lack of personnel and specialized equipment), this monumental task would not have been completed in the short time frame without EPA’s support and willingness to work with our Wastewater Treatment Division,” said Shayne Agawa, Director of the Division of Environmental Management . “Completing this important task will allow the county to make the necessary repairs to restore sewer service to the City of Lahaina.”

The EPA evaluated all 97,749 feet of lateral sewer lines in about a month. Canal sections that were inaccessible, damaged or blocked were reported to the county for further assessment and action.

EPA has successfully collected data from 40% of these deferred segments, including the location of a pipe break, which will help the county prioritize future work.

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EPA also continues to provide technical assistance to the Maui County Water Department by conducting drinking water sampling. These sampling efforts will inform the county of contamination of drinking water pipes from the wildfire. The agency is conducting sampling in the distribution system, with teams taking samples from fire hydrants in areas affected by the wildfires.

The sampling includes water quality parameters commonly found in drinking water systems after building fires. In the coming weeks, EPA will coordinate with the Maui County Department of Water Utilities to conduct the next phase of sampling in drinking water laterals that carry water from the main line to the home or business. In the final phase, pipes that have been sampled and determined to be contaminated are cut off and sealed to prevent contaminants from entering the main pipe.

EPA employee collects sample. PC: EPA

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