- Associated Press - Monday, August 10, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii is at risk of losing federal water infrastructure improvement funds if the state doesn’t start lending the money to counties more efficiently.

The state projects repair costs over the next 20 years at about $1 billion, while about $100 million in federally matched funds went unspent by the end of last year, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (https://bit.ly/1UyKx5c ).

Water mains break almost daily, wasting millions of gallons of drinking water and leaking enough to shut down traffic on Oahu streets.

Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 water division director Michael Montgomery said it’s a lost economic opportunity when the state fails to allocate federal dollars that it automatically gets.

“If they can’t, frankly, get it together and begin running the program in a way that’s making good use of the money, then we have the capability of taking money back and giving it to another state,” he said.

An EPA review found the fund wasn’t adequately staffed by the Department of Health, and Montgomery says the state ranks among the worst nationally in utilizing the money.

The health department is working to retain funding by implementing EPA-approved corrective actions over the next two years.

Joanna Seto heads the Health Department’s Safe Drinking Water Branch and says the agency plans to expand the eight loans that were finalized last year to 11 worth $69.8 million in 2016.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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