Hui O Ka Wai Ola, a community-based water quality monitoring program that lost its laboratory to the Aug. 8 Lahaina Fire, is increasing its response to the devastating blaze by launching four additional water testing sites in West Maui.
The organization, a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council and West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative, has continued actively monitoring coastal water conditions in West Maui since the wildfire and was the first group to perform post-fire sampling in the area.
The organization is one of the only environmental groups in the area working under a quality assured project plan, producing quality data that can be used by state and local organizations.
It collected samples Aug. 14 from 15 West Maui sites flanking either side of Lahaina.
Hui O Ka Wai Ola gained access to the burn zone Aug. 30 and resumed sampling at its three existing Lahaina sites, located at 505 Front St., Kauaula Road and Polanui-Uhailio, and added the four new sampling sites at Mala Tavern, Mala Ramp, Papalaua Street and Lahaina Harbor.
“Maui’s nearshore coral reefs will be impacted by toxins, pollution and debris from the devastating fires in Lahaina, and data to assess and understand those impacts is essential,” said Kim Falinski, marine science advisor for The Nature Conservancy, Hawai‘i and Palmyra. “The logistics of collecting water samples are complicated by the ongoing tragedy and recovery efforts, access to the area and safety for volunteers who will be entering the water. Hui O Ka Wai Ola is collaborating closely with government officials and community members to safely and ethically enter coastal waters to collect samples inside and outside of the restricted area.”
Hui O Ka Wai Ola recently collected samples from the Lahaina sites to test for the presence of heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds in collaboration with research partners. Processing of water samples is being done by partner organizations, with findings yet to be released.
Staff and volunteers since Aug. 14 have continuously collected samples and tested them for temperature, pH, salinity and dissolved oxygen, which are showing normal ranges.
Hui O Ka Wai Ola also is collaborating with the Surfrider Blue Water Task Force to test West Maui waters for the presence of Enterococcus, a bacteria known to cause swimming-associated gastrointestinal illness. Findings from that study can be found on the Surfrider website.
All previous Hui O Ka Wai Ola data can be found online.
For more information or to donate to rebuilding the organization’s West Maui lab, click here.