On September 20th, we attended the Upcountry Community Meeting at Hannibal Tavares Community Center. Our concerns about water quality have remained throughout the ongoing fires.
On Wednesday, September 20th, Council Vice-Chair, Yuki Lei Sugimura of the Maui County Council, Upcountry District, held an Upcountry Community Meeting at 6 p.m.In attendance was the Mayor, Yuki Lei, the EPA, FEMA, Dept. of Waste Management, and The Maui County Water Director. The meeting was held at the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani. The following departments and agencies spoke on topics related to debris removal and the Unsafe Water Advisory:
- Department of Water Supply
- Department of Environmental Management
- US Army Corps of Engineers
- Maui Youth and Family Services
We also had personnel at the meeting who assisted with signing residents up for aid and for employment with FEMA. Water and home COVID test kits were also available for folks to take home.
Our Town Hall Notes:
Here are some of the takeaways worth amplifying.
- Lahaina Debris Removal Timeline: They say it’ll take 6-12 months to remove debris from Lahaina, but from experience from disasters in California, we should expect it to take 3-4 years. But, with the speed Hawaii tends to move, and our own unique set of additional problems here, it could take 5-10 years.
- Lack of Water Pump Generators & Communication – Lack of communication was all too apparent. We were grateful that Bob Fenton, the Regional Administrator for FEMA (AZ, CA, HI, NV) was in attendance. Initially, Maui County Water Director Mr Stufflebean was asked why we don’t have pump generators at every water pump in the County. We personally have a friend in the fire department that told us they were going from hydrant to hydrant trying to find water during the height of the Kula fires to no avail. They had a hell of a time finding water. Stufflebean said it’s impossible to get a pump generator on all of the 125 pumps, but they’ll get then on a few of the important ones. Then Bob Fenton of FEMA shared that FEMA can help get all the generators needed for the 125. Where is the communication? Why hadn’t Stufflebean contacted FEMA about this? After speaking with the fire department and learning about their difficulties during the fire, wouldn’t calling every agency that could help be your first task? Or did he even speak with the fire department? Mr. Stufflebean didn’t know it was a possibility until this meeting. We need to call the Maui County Water Department and engineering dept. to make sure this is actually happening. I wouldn’t put it past Stufflebean to sit on his hands and do nothing.
- Volunteer Reimbursement – Kyle Ellison raised the issue of having the County and/or FEMA reimburse the time, efforts, water bills, and money our Upcountry community has put in since day one to stop the fires and mitigate fires by clearing trees. They’ve worked tirelessly since the beginning. We’ll see what happens there…
Displaced Residents Still Have to Pay Water Bills – Residents with houses burned down are still getting water bills. Maui County Water Director Mr. Stufflebean says to pay your bills and they’ll figure it out later. Some residents had/have $1000 bills because they were fighting the fire.
- Water Quality Concerns Remain – Residents are very concerned about water quality. In Pukalani, there has never been a water advisory, and water testing hasn’t become available. We ran our own commercial, professional test. Here are the Pukalani water results. Why would we have disinfectant levels and contaminants well-beyond health-related benchmarks if our water is said to be safe?
Red Cross & FEMA Help For Multi-family Homes – Red Cross said if you get denied by FEMA you can file with the Red Cross and they cover more than what FEMA covers. Especially for those with citizenship issues. Issues with multiple people living on a single property? The initial family will get approved, but 2nd party will likely get denied. You’ll need to apply and speak in person at the FEMA physical location below the Pukalani Community Center.
- Dumpster Access – If you’re helping with relief efforts (Feeding people, cleaning, gathering and distributing items) the Department of Environmental Management will give you a dumpster to use.
The Water Safety Map has been updated as of 9/14/23.