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House hearing focuses on water quality for east side villages

Some villages not paying ASPA water rates, while others are

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Vaifanua Faipule, Shaun O Va’a continues his fight for quality drinking water for residents of the eastern side.

In a recent hearing before the House of Representatives with American Samoa Power Authority Director Wallon Young, Va’a said it has been six years but their people continue to “deal” with poor quality of water.

Committee chairman Ape Mike Asifoa said there have been numerous complaints against ASPA over this issue, hence the hearing.

 “The hearing is about the water condition on the eastern side of the island. Residents of the eastern side have complained about the condition and the quality of water — at the same time, they are paying the same rates to ASPA like everyone,” said the Chairman.

Va’a emphasized this has been a long-standing issue.

 “This issue I have definitely brought up with ASPA during my first term in office as a Faipule for Vaifanua, four years ago.

 “The temporary fix was the installation of RO (reverse osmosis) water machines in each village of our district so people can utilize them for free.

 “It's now been almost six years since we've been using those RO machines — but we need a permanent solution.

 “Our people still have been suffering from poor water quality in our district.

“Even though we use the RO water for food and drinking, it's not enough, because we still use ASPA water for showering, brushing our teeth, washing dishes and it's affecting our health and especially our appliances,” said the Vaifanua faipule.

Va’a appealed to ASPA to lower their rates since there is limited usage of the water on their end.

 “Our water quality is not the same as everyone else around the island,” said Va’a.

During the hearing, Young said a number of factors go into why the quality of water is the way it is on the eastern side, which includes low pressure areas, sea level rising and lack of water wells in the far east.

Va’a questioned the status of the ASPA project where they were supposed to install water well tanks four years ago, as legal documents were signed affording the Authority the leeway to utilize family land for this project for the benefit of families on the east side.

According to Young, there are no water wells in Tula and that’s probably why that project never took off.

 “The water supply for Tula comes from Aoa. The installation for the RO (reverse osmosis) water machines has started already, concrete slab is completed for that one in Aoa. We are prioritizing the east side,” explained Young.

Va’a then asked the ASPA management whether they have tasted the water? “It tastes like sea water, it’s so salty.”

 “Can you explain why the water on the east is different from all the other areas around Tutuila,” asked Va’a.

In response, the Director said the quality of water depends on how much is drawn.

“If there is very little recharge, with rain, it reduces what is drawn out. The second thing is the seawater. Given the water is deep down it has to be drawn up and it’s mixed with salt water, as it pushes the freshwater up and when the machine continues to draw and there is not enough recharge the water quality, it ends up the way it is,” he said.

Va’a emphasized that his main concern is people’s health.

During the hearing it was revealed that Aunu’u residents don’t pay for their ASPA water.

Young explained this has happened for the last three years due to the high level of Chloride (which is a naturally occurring element that is common in most natural waters and is most often found as a component of salt (sodium chloride) or in some cases in combination with potassium or calcium.

Va’a questioned why Aunu’u is receiving free water and Vaifanua residents are paying the same rate as everyone else, yet their water is almost like seawater. 

“Aunu’u is ten times worse,” said Young hence the free water for their residents.

Va’a then urged ASPA management to prioritize the health of their people on the eastern side.

 “The reason I am asking so many questions is because you need to prioritize this for our people, we have been facing this issue for many years.

“We have been suffering for so many years and yet there is no permanent solution,” said Va’a.