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Unsafe Water Continues to Hinder Services Despite Reopening of More Maui Businesses | News, Sports, Jobs


Sep 14, 2023

In Lahaina, a sign outside a Safeway store indicates that it is open on Wednesdays. While restrictions are being lifted and more businesses are reopening, there are still some places that are dealing with unsafe water advisories and are unable to offer full services. Safeway is able to sell items like frozen goods, refrigerated goods, produce, and shelf-stable items, but they are not able to produce food on-site. Some businesses in the area have found ways to adapt, such as using water tanks to fill 5-gallon jugs, while others are utilizing produce washing and ice machines. However, the lack of clean water remains a challenge for these establishments.

The Maui County Water Authority has issued a hazardous water advisory for areas of Upper Kula and Upper Lahaina that were affected by wildfires on August 8. Harmful contaminants like benzene and other volatile organic compounds may have entered the water system. The advisory recommends not drinking or using the water for cooking, and if water is used indoors, boiling it should be limited and proper ventilation should be provided. While Zone 1 in Kula has been cleared, Zones 2 to 5 are still under advisory. A map of the hazardous water advisories can be found on mauicounty.gov.

Although some restrictions have been lifted in certain business zones, the unsafe water advisory remains in place. The Lahaina Cannery Mall subdivision and the Kupuohi and Ulupono Avenue area, where Island Grocery Depot is located, have had their disaster area restrictions lifted, allowing businesses to reopen. However, the water in these areas is still not safe for use. The state Department of Health’s smoke and dust advisories also remain in effect for areas affected by the wildfires and nearby locations experiencing smoke, ash, and dust.

The president and CEO of Valley Isle Produce, Nelson Okumura, highlighted the challenges that businesses are facing due to the lack of clean water. Workers are unable to wash their hands, which is a major hindrance. Despite power being restored at Island Grocery Depot and credit card transactions being processed, the store still does not have clean water. Okumura emphasized that this is the only thing preventing them from operating fully.

In the midst of these difficulties, Safeway and Long’s Drug at Lahaina Cannery Mall have reopened. However, the availability of certain products may be affected by the water hazard advisory. While refrigerated items, frozen items, produce, and shelf-stable items are available, there is currently no on-site food production. The opening of these businesses was announced on Lahaina Cannery Mall’s Facebook page.

For Kula Lodge & Restaurant, Wednesday marked their first day of business since the nearby fire destroyed some homes. Although the chalets, restaurant, and Kula Marketplace store had already opened, they were damaged and had to close temporarily. The reopening brought a small number of customers, but the Chief Operating Officer, Isa Shipley, expressed gratitude for their support. The lodge is also open and has been providing accommodations for evacuees. They are taking paid reservations and have made arrangements to provide water to their guests.

Shipley also mentioned the challenges they faced in bringing back employees after the fire. Only two out of the 72 employees have returned so far, as some have found other jobs or were forced to move. Despite the difficulties, Kula Lodge has been supportive of the community throughout this time, serving as a drop-off point for donations and assisting volunteers. They also provided hot meals to residents and first responders, as well as free groceries from the Kula Marketplace.

Similarly, Island Grocery Depot in Lahaina survived the fire thanks to a firewall separating it from the adjacent store. While they were not able to reopen immediately, they donated perishable items and other goods. The store’s employees are safe, but several people were left homeless. VIP Foodservice, their food distribution business, has also been affected as many hotels on Maui, which they supply, are now being used as temporary shelters.

Overall, businesses in Lahaina and Kula are grappling with the challenges posed by the unsafe water advisories and the aftermath of the wildfires. They are working to adapt and provide limited services to their customers, but the lack of clean water remains a significant hurdle.

By Editor

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