High lead levels in water found in Koke’e, Waimea Canyon state parks

During periodic testing, unsafe levels of lead have been found in certain parts of the water system serving Koke’e and Waimea Canyon State parks.

In response to test results, the state Department of Health has ordered the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which manages the parks, to take corrective action to make the water safe to drink.

The water problem has surfaced in spite of ongoing efforts by DLNR to upgrade the old water system, which serves at least 100 private cabins and rental cabins in the park complex.

Lead can dissolve into the water from the pipes or lead solder joints that are part of the water system.

Lead is a metabolic poison. For children, chronic exposure can cause brain damage. For adults, continual exposure can lead to kidney problems, liver damage, high blood pressure, anemia and nerve damage.

The water samples were taken from three faucets, one at the Pu’u Ka Pele restrooms, one at a rental cabin operated by Koke’e Ventures and one at a DLNR baseyard below the rental cabins, according to Bob Yamada, an official with the parks division of the DLNR office on Kaua’i.

The water samples exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “action level of 15 parts per billion, or 0.015 milligrams of lead per liter of water,” according to the DLNR.

Federal law and the state Department of Health are requiring DLNR to have a program in place to minimize lead in the drinking water by Feb. 15, 2003.

The state agency will use an “orthophosphate treatment” and soda ash to raise the pH level in the water to make the water safe to drink, the DLNR said.

The agency has hired Aqua Engineering, a private contractor on Kaua’i, to inject the water system with ash and Calgon C-9, which, when combined, can slow down the corrosion in lead pipes, Yamada said.

The contractor began the work in either October or November on an old and new well, and is expected to have the work done in January, Yamada said.

The program also includes a public education about the dangers of lead.

“Until this thing is rectified, testing will continue throughout the (park) complex,” Yamada said.

At this point, Yamada said he did not know whether unacceptable levels of lead have been found in other parts of the water system.

To have water in the park tested, or to get more information about public health issues related to exposure to lead, call DLNR at 274-3446.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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