Contaminant shuts down water tank

KEKAHA — One of the four water tanks that supplies the Kekaha-Waimea water system has been taken offline after a chemical contaminant was discovered in the tank’s coating.

All drinking water is safe, according to both the state Department of Health and the Kauai Department of Water.

“Proceeding with the next steps to refurbish the Paua Valley tank, in addition to responsible routine inspections, testing and servicing of our water systems, ensures our customers that Kauai’s drinking water remains safe for everyday use,” said Kirk Saiki, DOW manager and chief engineer.

He continued: “We are dedicated to continuing the department’s compliance with state and federal standards for water quality.”

The water system serves about 5,800 people on the Westside.

The Paua Valley tank was removed from service on Sept. 12 after a routine servicing and sampling of the tank’s coating showed minute traces of an organic chemical group, known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB).

Since September, DOW been working with DOH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to confirm the water quality from the tank’s distribution point, which connects to the system’s main line, did not contain PCBs, and that the water remained safe while the tank was in service.

“DOH will be working closely with Kauai DOW to ensure that adequate steps are taken to remove the source(s) of PCBs and thorough water quality testing is conducted before the Paua Valley tank is placed back into service,” DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said in a Monday news release to TGI.

PCBs were banned in the U.S. in 1979, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and in the 20 years prior an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were made.

The chemicals made their way into hydraulic fluids, plasticizers, adhesives, fire retardants and de-dusting agents.

They were also put into things like microscope oils, electrical insulators, capacitors, television sets and refrigerators. They were also sprayed on dirt roads to keep the dust down, and the waste from their manufacturing process was placed in landfills and dumpsites.

The chemicals break down in the environment by sunlight or by microorganisms.

Impacts to human health can include a disruption in reproductive function, neurobehavioral and developmental deficits in newborns and school-aged children, liver disease, diabetes and thyroid issues, and increased cancer risks, according to EPA.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has determined PCBs are a potential occupational carcinogen.

Federal and state Maximum Contaminant Level for PCBs is 0.5 parts per billion, and the October sample from the surface of the Paua Valley Tank was 13 parts per billion.

Water tested from the pipe exiting the tank, leading to the distribution system, did not contain PCBs, according to DOH.

“To date, the Kekaha-Waimea water system continues to be in compliance with all federal and state standards for drinking water,” Okubo said.

The Paua Valley tank is 45 years old, and is one of four, 500,000-gallon tanks that services the Kekaha-Waimea water systems, and will remain offline until the refurbishment work and water-quality requirements have been completed and approved by EPA and DOH.

  1. JK Smith December 5, 2017 9:02 am Reply

    Are these genetically-modified PCBs?

  2. David December 5, 2017 11:29 am Reply

    Discovered in Sept or earlier. Why are we just hearing about this now? Nothing at the outlet? Not really credible when the inside of the tank is coated throughout. Could we have some investigative reporting on this?

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