Environmentalists criticize health department for delay in reporting toxic chemicals in Kunya village

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Environmental advocates are criticizing the Department of Health for delays in telling the public that a drinking water well in the village of Kunya was contaminated with toxic chemicals.

Last week, it was reported that hundreds of residents were receiving bottled water.

The state Department of Health discovered PFAS, known as a toxic chemical, at several times the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level in well No. 3 serves the village of Kunya. Not good. 3 is closed and owned by the military and managed by the Kunia Water Association.

“It’s really quite shocking,” said Melody Aduja, environmental co-chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party. He says that health workers should have informed the public sooner.

Last September, the health department took water samples. PFAS chemicals were discovered on October 6, 2022. The Department of Health received the next PFAS approval on November 23. DOH notified the public on January 20, 2023.

“When you go through the schedule they’ve put forward, it’s unbelievable,” Aduja said.

“It’s been four months for people to even be aware of the dangers of this eternal liquid and chemical cancer,” he said.

In an exclusive interview, state health officials acknowledged the delay. Water suppliers are required to report contamination to the health department, but in this case, the state did the testing as part of a study.

“I think there was some confusion in our own operation as to how it was reported,” said Dennis Lopez, Branch Chief, Department of Health’s Safe Drinking Water Branch.

“It got stuck in a department that was doing the investigation and it wasn’t reported to our compliance department in time to initiate notification within the department,” he said.

There are 138 water systems across the country, and health officials test the water to determine what toxic chemicals are present.

PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1940s, and seven recent PFAS discoveries were made in wells at Waipio Heights, Makakilo, Kunya Waipahu, Kipapa, Aina Koa, and the Navy’s Aiea Halawa well.

PFAS website Here.

Sanitation officials say that water pollution in the village of Kunia was also discovered during another crisis; Navy Firefighting Foam at Red Hill.

State regulators say they have since clarified their internal process. The rules require water suppliers to notify health officials within seven days of discovering contamination. Then, the department has 14 days to notify the public.

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