The Ka'ū Calendar
“The quality of your water is a direct link to the quality of your health.” This is the mantra of Todd Lolla, who founded Uncle Tilo's Clean Water, LLC. He is bringing a free Clean Water class to Ocean View Community Center on Saturday, April 9 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Lolla focuses on rainwater harvesting, "a technology that communities across the globe will increasingly rely upon to adapt to climate change and environmental pollution issues."
In addition to hosting informational sessions, Lolla recruits Field Technicians to train and provide knowledge, services, and products "to further contribute to the wellbeing of our local rainwater harvesters." He offers Water Partnerships, along with training and support to those who would like to become certified technicians through the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association.
"We support rainwater harvesters with peace of mind," said Lolla. "Uncle Tilo’s mission provides economically viable and environmentally friendly solutions for rainwater harvesters." He said, "Rainwater harvesting as a necessary component into the future."
Lolla, who is known as Uncle Tilo, grew up in the Midwest and remembers harvesting rainwater on his family’s dairy farm through the mid 1970’s. He is a graduate of the South Dakota School of Mines, with a BS in Geological Engineering, A career in Arizona combined consulting and contractor skills.
While working for a civil engineering firm in Phoenix, his projects involved groundwater studies and subsequent cleanup of fuel spills at gasoline stations. This led him to earn a license to be a well-driller in Arizona for ten years. He said his focus on groundwater issues moved him to specialize in storm water management. He worked with state environmental agencies during the 1990’s to set standards for the protection of groundwater across the desert Southwest.
In 2009, he left the engineering world and moved to Hawai’i Island with a calling to "return to community.” He saw the large demand for rain catchment systems as a potable water source.
In 2017, Lolla founded Uncle Tilo’s Clean Water LLC to "fill the need for both education and service involving one of the most basic of human needs, clean water."
Lolla pointed to World Population Review, showing the number of Hawai’i county residents recently increased to more than 200,000, with a large percentage dependent on rainwater catchment as a primary domestic water source.
Lolla noted, "The Island of Hawai’i, the largest and most southerly island in the Hawaiian archipelago, is characterized by dynamic communities including rural and remote areas not served by municipal water. These communities rely on private or shared wells, water trucked from public spigots and rainwater catchment. Hawai’i Island's population has increased steadily in recent years, as the global demand for access to clean water grows."
Uncle Tilo's has hosted more than 50 free Clean Water classes, provided sponsorships, and social media marketing to focus attention on the issues surrounding rainwater harvesting. www.TilosCleanWater.com "is designed for empowerment through education," said Lolla.
He said, "It is very important that those using water from a rainwater catchment system understand all the potential dangers and benefits. In Hawai’i, there are no government agencies overseeing the safety of private rainwater catchment systems. It is up to the owner or user of the system to know how to maintain this type of water source and use it in an appropriate manner. With proper design, maintenance, water treatment, and disinfection, a rainwater catchment system can provide water that is free of contamination; soft, clear, odorless, and suitable for drinking and other daily needs. However, improperly designed or maintained rainwater catchment systems may pose a health risk; for example, via the introduction of waterborne illness and exposure to heavy metals."
Lolla said that waterborne and vector-borne illness may be transmitted to users from rainwater catchment systems that lack appropriate system elements, maintenance, or from insufficient treatment of stored water. For example, catchment tanks lacking covers or with damaged or poorly sealed covers can provide breeding opportunities for mosquitos known to be disease vectors. Lolla pointed out that the 2015-2016 dengue virus outbreak on Hawai’i Island sickened hundreds. The state Department of Health identified “uncovered catchment systems…” as a potential source of dengue virus infected mosquitos and suggested essential actions be taken to control mosquito breeding in rainwater harvest systems. Other vector-borne diseases transmitted by mosquitos, such as the globally emerging Zika virus, are of concern in areas where mosquitos may breed. The invasive semi-slug, with a propensity to climb up and into water tanks, is a known host of the parasitic nematode responsible for infecting humans with rat lungworm disease, Lolla noted. He cautioned that when it comes to exposure to heavy metals, "the fact that all rainwater is corrosive is at the top of the list.
Most rainwater is acidic, regardless of where you are on the planet. Here in Hawai’i, we also have volcanic emissions at this time that adds to this problem as was confirmed by testing one tank while hosting a class in Ocean View last month. "The owners expressed they had never added any minerals in the tank, and it tested out with a pH of 4.5. Typical rainfall has a pH around 6, that means the rainwater we catch in the Kaʻū District is very corrosive."
Lolla warned,"If your pipes, sinks, tubs, or toilet have stains, it’s because metals have leached into your water supply. If you are brushing your teeth, showering, drinking, or cooking with this untreated water you are being exposed to heavy metals. Corrosive water may leach metals from your plumbing system, such as lead, cadmium, zinc, iron or copper into your water supply. It also shortens the life expectancy of all plumbing fixtures and appliances."
Uncle Tilo’s recommendation is to add minerals to neutralize rainwater to help mitigate ongoing events of the volcanic eruption that are carried along by vog, with its impact on air and rain. Lolla reported a recent increase in calls due to voggy conditions.
He said Uncle' Tilo's principle is simple: "From the raindrop to your faucet the whole system affects the quality of the water you use, and ultimately affects the quality of your health."
Learn more at www.TilosCleanWater.com.