HILO — Water quality monitoring on Hawaii Island will get a boost under a bill that passed the state House of Representatives.
Introduced by Rep. Chris Todd, House Bill 425 creates a full-time position under the state Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch.
The bill passed its first reading in the Senate on Tuesday and was referred for hearings before the Committee on Agriculture and Environment and the Committee Ways and Means. House representatives voted in favor of moving the bill to the Senate on Feb. 28.
Prior to crossing over, the bill was passed with little change by the House Committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs and Committee on Finance.
The full-time position’s job would be to enforce water quality and safety for coastal areas and streams by investigating complaints and taking water samples.
In his written testimony in support of the bill, Mayor Harry Kim said there currently is only one water quality specialist for the whole island.
“This has been an ongoing issue, especially for the Keaukaha community in Hilo, and really should be remedied,” he said.
The position has been a priority for Terri Napeahi, who runs the Keaukaha Action Network, due to concerns about water quality at Puhi Bay, where the county’s sewer outfall is located.
Napeahi said she has pursued the issue because DOH doesn’t test in swimming areas there. She said the county tests near the outfall.
“I’m excited about it passing (the House),” she said. “It will at least cover some holes that they said (keeps them) from doing their job.”
Although she ran against Todd in last year’s Democratic primary, both have worked cooperatively on this issue.
A similar bill passed the House last year but didn’t move forward in the Senate.
Concerns about water quality monitoring also have been raised by discharges of manure-laden wastewater from the Big Island Dairy into gulches near Ookala. The dairy is in the process of closing.