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Hawaii News

Maui balks at order for water tests

WAILUKU » Federal environmental officials and Maui County leaders are at odds over an order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct water sampling tests off West Maui.

The federal agency ordered the county in January to conduct the tests, saying two studies found "substantial evidence" that waste water injected into the ground was seeping out of subsea springs off Kaanapali.

The order came as the federal agency continued to review the county’s application to renew underground injection control permits for waste-water injection wells.

Department of Environmental Management Director Cheryl Okuma said the county was in talks with the EPA about its order to study the wells’ impacts.

County officials had several concerns about the order, including the cost of the tests, which could run $1 million or more, according to Okuma.

"We’re still in the process of discussion" to determine the scope of the studies, Okuma said. "We haven’t agreed to anything at this point because we need to know what we’re talking about."

But an EPA official said the county has not been responsive enough, noting that the county has missed two deadlines set by the agency for a tracer study and water sampling plan.

"I can’t say I’m pleased by the response of the county," said David Albright, manager of the EPA’s Ground Water Office. "We asked the county to conduct these studies. We provided them certain dates to submit information to us and start work. Obviously some of these dates have now passed, and we have not gotten from the county what we asked them to provide."

Albright added it was not unusual for the EPA to engage in discussions with an agency or municipality over its orders.


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