Posted on Aug 30, 2023 in Aquatic Resources, Main, Media, News Releases, slider


August 30, 2023


More Sophisticated Tests Are Pending 

To view video please click on photo

(LĀHAINĀ, HAWAI‘I) – Preliminary water testing in the nearshore waters off Lāhainā are showing that physical parameters, like temperature, PH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen, are currently in normal ranges.

Russell Sparks, an aquatic biologist with the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources, Tova Callender of the West Maui Ridge-to-Reef Initiative, and Liz Yannell of Hui O Ka Wai Ola teamed up today to take ocean water samples at numerous locations along the fire impact area.

Sparks said, “We have ongoing concerns that pollutants from the fire will make their way into the ocean at some of the drainage outfalls or from storm drains. For years we’ve done regular monitoring, but now we’re including testing from the fire zone. We’ll be sending samples off to researchers who will be looking more in detail at some of the heavy metals and other volatile chemicals that are associated with fires.”

That research will look at volatile organic compounds (VOC) and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOC). Yannell explained, “We have more of a chance of finding SVOC in the water because these compounds don’t disperse as quickly. Big things that end up in the ocean can leach chemicals into the marine environment.”

For ten years, Callender, her organization, and other conservation partners have been working to reduce erosion and sedimentation from the West Maui Mountains into the ocean, focusing on a drainage one watershed north of Lāhainā, out of the fire area.

“Certainly, this gives us an opportunity to do a re-start on all kinds of things,” Callender said. “This includes the agriculture areas above Lāhainā and other communities, as well as improving best practices for storm water management from the ridges to the reefs of West Maui.”

Sparks added, “Due to the old infrastructure of Lāhainā, storm water does not flow into settling basins or modern infrastructure, so it flows as quickly as possible into the ocean. So, that’s a huge concern with the amount of potentially toxic substances on the land now.”

He agrees, that as Lāhainā rebuilds it’s an opportunity, with input from the community, to think about modernizing storm water mitigation to protect Maui’s coral reefs and other marine wildlife. He’s impressed with the rapidity of deployment of temporary measures to restrict pollution from entering the ocean. Virtually every storm water drain in Lāhainā is now surrounded by a waddle (a barrier to reduce water into drains). He plans to work with Maui County Public Works to deploy even better methods of keeping polluted water out of the ocean.

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)

HD Video – Lāhainā ocean water testing SOTs (August 30, 2023):


HD Video – Lāhainā ocean water testing media clips (August 30, 2023):


Photographs – Lāhainā ocean water testing (August 30, 2023):


Media Contact: 

Dan Dennison
Senior Communications Manager
Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources
[email protected]