Hui O Ka Wai Ola has been collecting coastal water quality data in West Maui at an increased frequency in response to the Lāhainā fire, which started on August 8, 2023. On August 15, the Hui was able to restart sampling at 14 sites surrounding Lāhainā from Honolua Bay to Pāpalaua Pali. Monitoring within Lāhainā town was resumed on August 30, including four newly added sites (Mala Tavern, Mala Ramp, Papalaua St., and Lāhainā Harbor) and at three long-established sites (505 Front St., Kauaula Rd., and Polanui-Uhailio). Our South Maui sampling efforts have continued at the normal 3 week interval for 13 sites from Māʻalaea Harbor to ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu NAR.
Hui staff and volunteers have been trained in protocols to ensure their safety in case of pollution in the nearshore environment while monitoring and have required an escort into Lāhainā to access sites. We have also been able to create a new position, the Lāhainā Fire Response Team Lead, led by Christiane Keyhani, to coordinate the collection of physical parameters like temperature, pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen, which are currently showing normal ranges. Other samples for heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds have been collected by the Hui for processing by partners who specialize in these parameters, findings yet to be released. We are also collaborating with Surfrider Blue Water Task Force and have collected two rounds of samples for them in Lāhainā and some other West Maui sites for enterococcus testing. Findings from their monitoring efforts can be found on their website: Blue Water Task Force (surfrider.org). You can read more about our initial sampling efforts in this August 30 Maui Now article: Ocean water testing begins off Lahaina: Maui Now.
We want to thank everyone who has supported our extra sampling efforts in Lāhainā, and those also helping to replace equipment and supplies lost in our West Maui lab. A special mahalo to the Ka‘anapali Ocean Resort Charitable Trust, Restore with Resilience, and the MANY individual donors who have contributed at this critical time, and to KaiAloha Supply for providing our team with new uniforms, despite their personal hardships in the fires. Mahalo to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback National Marine Sanctuary for allowing us to use the wet lab for all of our West Maui and Lāhainā work. While the funding has yet to be received, Hui O Ka Wai Ola is also the first group to be funded by FEMA for post-fire water quality assessment in West Maui.
Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by the Maui fires. We will continue to do our part as a quality-assured, citizen science monitoring group to shed light on long term coastal water quality trends in the places we survey. A huge shout out to our volunteers, our fearless Program Manager Liz Yannell, and partners like DAR and DOH for ensuring monitoring continues during these challenging times.