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U.S. EPA AND HAWAII DOH ANNOUNCE REPORT ON ALGAE AND TRACER STUDY

 SAN FRANCISCO, June 25 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) today announced the release of a preliminary assessment of potential sources of nutrients within the West Maui watershed and plans for future studies to gain an understanding of what might be causing the blooms of algae off the west coast of Maui.
 "This study is a cooperative effort by many agencies and businesses to help us learn what additional information and applied research needs to be done to understand the causes of the algae growth," said Harry Seraydarian, U.S. EPA's water management division director.
 In making the assessment, U.S. EPA used data provided by the Hawaii DOH, Maui County, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, Maui Pineapple Co., Kapalua Land Co., Pioneer Mill, the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association and the University of Hawaii.
 The preliminary assessment estimated the amount of nutrients -- nitrogen and phosphorous -- used in the watershed and discusses the likelihood of these nutrients being carried into the ocean, where they might become plant food for the algae.
 "The algal blooms could be caused by nutrients from human activities, the introduction of new species, or simply by naturally occurring cycles," said Seraydarian. "We are beginning a step-by-step process by first looking at nutrient sources. Evaluation to date indicates that the sewage effluent injected at the Lahaina Wastewater Treatment Facility and fertilizer applied to agricultural lands are by far the largest nutrient sources."
 Seraydarian was quick to point out, however, that it is still not certain that these nutrients are actually causing the algae to grow. "We simply don't know what's causing this growth because it's unknown what percentage of the nutrients applied to the land reach the ocean," he said. "We have no data indicating that either the treatment plant or local agriculture are the causes. The sole purpose of our study was to prioritize further investigative efforts.
 "This study indicates that wastewater discharged into injection wells and fertilizer used to grow sugar cane and pineapple are the major sources of nutrients in the watershed," said Bruce Anderson, Deputy Director for Environmental Health. "Although it would be premature to implicate these sources as the cause of the algae blooms, it is obvious that more efficient use of fertilizers and reductions in wastewater discharged into the injection wells will reduce the potential for algae blooms to occur," said Anderson.
 To get a clearer picture of what is happening at the Lahaina facility, the U.S. EPA will conduct a tracer study beginning June 30 in cooperation with DOH and Maui County to determine if fluids from the facility's injection wells are reaching the ocean. Scientists will inject a harmless fluorescent red dye into the wells. Then a device called a fluorometer will be towed in an area from the shoreline to three miles offshore and from Kaanapali to Kahana in an attempt to detect the dye in the ocean. The researchers will examine areas where fresh water seeps up through sediments on the ocean floor. In higher concentrations, the dye will appear pink on the surface of the water. Underwater, it may look like discolored water. The fluorometer will allow researchers to detect dye in concentrations not visible to the human eye.
 The U.S. EPA has set up a dye observation hotline and is requesting anyone seeing pink or discolored water near Honokowai or Kaanapali to contact the researchers at 808-872-6078 as soon as possible to verify the sighting with a fluorometer before the dye dissipates.
 "We do not want to study the problem to death when we now know of steps that can be taken to reduce nutrient releases, such as reusing wastewater effluent," said Anderson.
 Although it is not known at this time what is causing the algal blooms, agencies and businesses have begun taking actions that could reduce algae growth. Land owners and users within the watershed, with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, the West Maui Soil and Water Conservation District and the University of Hawaii, are developing a strategy to reduce the amount of nutrients entering near-coastal waters. Currently, Maui Pineapple Co. is experimenting with ways to reduce the amount of nitrogen used to fertilize crops. Both Maui Pineapple Co. and Pioneer Mill have implemented agricultural best management practices to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss in the fields.
 Maui County has adopted a resolution to promote the use of reclaimed effluent and to reduce the flow of effluent to the Lahaina injection wells. Currently, the county is developing several projects that use reclaimed water for irrigation. In addition, Maui County and the U.S. EPA will be conducting a study to explore the feasibility to removing nutrients from wastewater so that the reclaimed water can be better sued for irrigation or groundwater recharge.
 The U.S. EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are also helping Hawaii DOH finance the hiring of a specialist to coordinate algae research projects, monitor nutrients in groundwater and surface waters, and to solicit public comments.
 Many of the algae studies will be funded by money that Senator Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, obtained for the U.S. EPA and NOAA to study the causes of the algal blooms and come up with solutions.
 -0- 6/25/93
 /Contact: Jennifer Castleberry of the Hawaii Department of Health, 808-586-4442; or Lois Grunwald of U.S. EPA, 415-744-1588/


CO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Hawaii Department of Health ST: Hawaii IN: ENV SU: EXE

SG -- SF009 -- 5956 06/25/93 20:12 EDT
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Date:Jun 25, 1993
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