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Purdue professor weighs in on Maui air and water quality

Expert: Chemicals now in the air, soil and water in Maui

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Maui wildfires has a Purdue professor worried of potential toxic health risks.

Andrew Whelton, a civil, environmental, and ecological professor at Purdue, said based on past wildfire disasters and the images from Maui, the water, soil and air is contaminated.

“When buildings, vehicles, boats, and other infrastructure materials burn that releases toxic chemicals into the air and soil,” Whelton said.

The State of Hawaii Department of Health put out a statement saying residents are unable to treat the water in any way to make it safe. According to The American Lung Association, if toxins are in the air, that could cause cancer and other health risks.

“Once the search and rescue operations are finished, the debris is something the agency is going to start dealing with. They are physically going to corner it off to prevent it from flowing into the ocean or waterways, into the streets,” Whelton said. “They’re also going to start removing it physically, putting it in dump trucks and possibly barges and ships and taking it off the island.”

Whelton said debris removal will take months, but has hope to rebuild because of other communities that have had devastating wildfires.