Another Struggle After the Maui Fires: Keeping Toxic Runoff Out of the Ocean

August 29, 2023 | Source: NPR | by Lauren Sommer

With more than 2,200 homes and buildings destroyed in Lahaina, Maui, the rubble and ash will take months to clean up. The process has yet to begin, and another challenge is looming: keeping the toxic fire debris from pouring into the ocean.

Coral reefs sit just offshore from the town’s razed waterfront, an ecosystem that’s highly vulnerable to runoff. Residents who are sifting through the wreckage of their community don’t want to see more damage done.

“The rain is going to wash everything away, and then our ocean is going to be dead,” says Travis Cabanilla Okano, who lost his home in the fire. “Our reef – that’s what my family lives on. We do fishing, diving. Everything we do is with the water.”

State and federal agencies are now installing barriers to catch debris, as well as putting monitoring equipment in the ocean to measure the impact on the ecosystem.