May is national \Drinking Water Month\ — too bad for many residents
May is known for many things, and one of those near and dear to the health of our nation is that it is also national ‘Drinking Water Month’. With that in mind, the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency (AS-EPA) is this week disseminating information on how to keep your water safe for drinking. This week, they will be inside the Executive Office Building (EOB) in Utulei sharing their message.
"We here at the AS-EPA and the American Samoa Power Authority are concerned with the quality of local drinking water,” said Tumau Lokeni Iese/AS-EPA Education Manager.
She states that under federal law, AS-EPA is required to ensure that the drinking water in American Samoa is safe for consumption. “We would like to ask the community to safeguard this ‘natural resource’ of ours. This is God’s gift to each and everyone of us. Please boil your water for the safety of your health,” she said.
They will be at the EOB this morning and on Friday morning at 9:00 a.m., when they will mark the close of Drinking Water Month at the AS-EPA Building, which is also in Utulei.
According to some of the information handed out, one of the steps you can take to reduce your exposure to bacteria in your water is to boil your water for one minute or more; otherwise, purchase bottled water for consumption.
If you are not sure about your water, contact the AS-EPA and they will inform you about the latest sampling events completed for the source of water in your area. You can contact them at 633-2304.
According to the US-EPA website water.epa.gov, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA) is the main federal law that ensures the quality of America’s drinking water. Under the SDWA, the EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities and water suppliers who implement those standards.
The American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) has long been the focus of public ire about the quality of the water in the Territory. In particular, is the current Boil Water Notice that has been in effect since 2009, and has resulted in some people asking if it is fair for local consumers to have to pay for ASPA water, when it isn’t safe for consumption — meaning the water has to be boiled anyway.
Samoa News notes that the current Boil Notice is not island-wide. Some villages, specifically the ones in the eastern district, are not under the Boil Water Notice as the ground water sources serving these villages are not e-coli contaminated, according to the notice.
Areas affected by the Boil Water Notice include:
Malaeloa at the Tuitasi Pulenu’u House plus two points (Taputimu and Puapua) to Poloa and villages located in between these points;
Ili’ili at the Assembly of God Antioch Church to Leloaloa at the Uti guesthouse and all the villages located in between these points; and
According to ASPA Executive Director Utu Abe Malae, in an email to Samoa News in April 2013, “…ASPA water will be safe for consumption without boiling it, but this will take time.”
He said ASPA is responsible for treating water, in terms of making it safe to drink — and the semi-autonomous agency will continue to implement short and long term solutions that will remove the Boil Water Notice.
“As we do so, we will do our best to provide effective solutions as soon as possible, but with reasonable operation and maintenance costs,” Utu added. He said treating water for drinking can be expensive, and it is far better to protect water from pollution sources and minimize treatment.
“Protecting water versus treating water — this is an important point. ASPA water is primarily groundwater, and ASPA can not control the quality of the water pumped up from the ground,” the ASPA CEO explained.
“Protecting water sources in the ground is a responsibility we all share. This means that each of us must be very careful about what we do to prevent pollution at our homes and businesses.”
On a very basic level, Utu said, “We need to make sure we have a sewer connection or a properly designed septic system. Piggery wastes, waste oil from vehicles, car washes, laundromats, cooking grease, household chemicals, and industrial pollution must be prevented from entering the ground.”
He added that the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) and ASPA can help prevent these harmful substances from entering the ground and polluting our drinking water, “but each of us must do our part too.”
Utu concluded, “As ASPA strives to implement solutions to better treat drinking water and remove the Boil Water Notice, we ask that everyone do their best to eliminate waste water, chemicals, and other pollution from entering our important ground water supply.”