Monday, October 19, 2009

Kalapaki water quality concerns residents

Kaua'i BWTF makes local headlines again. This time on the front page!

The Chapter shared their results with a reporter that they have been working with to cover water pollution issues on the island. The paper's investigation has led to questionable storm water pumping practices of a neighboring resort. Hopefully, this public awareness will also lead to better notification of potential health risks from polluted water and political will to solve this pollution problem.

Local news story below and online.

Remnants of run-off water pumped from a dry well by Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club on Oct. 5 are seen in this photo taken two days later. Bacteria levels were elevated Saturday at Kalapaki Bay prior to last weekend’s heavy rainfall based on data collected by Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i. Robert Zelkovsky/Contributed Photo

Kalapaki water quality concerns residents

by Coco Zickos - The Garden Island
Published: Thursday, October 15, 2009 2:10 AM HST
KALAPAKI — Bacteria levels measured more than 40 times state and federally deemed safe levels at Kalapaki stream early Saturday morning based on samples collected by Surfrider Foundation Kaua‘i volunteers.
A sample taken from Kalapaki Bay contained elevated levels of enterococcus bacteria — the current indicator for fecal matter — even though the water “looked clean” and it was “prior to heavy rainfall,” said Dr. Carl Berg of Surfrider.

While the source of contamination remains unknown, some have speculated possible sources.

One resident said he witnessed individuals from Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club pumping run-off water from a dry well into a “pit in the sand” at Kalapaki on Oct. 5.

“It looked foul and smelled awful,” Robert Zelkovsky of Surfrider said Friday. “The whole thing didn’t look right to me.”

Chauncey Hew, a geologist for the Department of Health’s Underground Injection Control Programming Unit, said the occurrence has actually been a “long standing and unresolved issue” and that the facility has a “number of drainage wells” that have been reported to have “overflows.”

“I just think it should be disposed of properly and not just into the sand,” said Zelkovsky, who reported the incident to the DOH. “To contribute to the condition of Kalapaki in any way is just not pono.”

A Marriott spokesperson provided a statement via e-mail from the hotel’s General Manager Elliot Mills:

“The dry well at Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club was filled with heavy rainfall on Sept. 28, Oct. 5 and Oct. 9. Consistent with procedures approved by the Department of Health, to prevent overflow, Kaua‘i Marriott Resort & Beach Club released the water from the well, which took the path to Kalapaki Beach. The effects did not cause any beach closure. Kalapaki Beach remains open for water recreation activities.”

The DOH completed an inspection Sept. 21, according to Engineering Section Supervisor JoAnna Seto. An individual had reportedly “observed what was occurring and made a report” at that time as well.

“Based on the inspection, the Clean Water Branch will be doing enforcement,” she said Wednesday. “We’re trying to get more information.”

From a pollution standpoint, Hew said the quality of run-off water is “not that bad,” unless there is “some kind of abuse or redirection of water,” such as shower water or cesspool drainage.

“They may not be breaking any rules,” he said, adding that they will be “getting an accurate count on the number of drains, their operating condition and type of wastewaters that may be entering into them.”

When asked how the county responds to such issues as water quality and whether it has considered working with organizations, such as Surfrider, to warn individuals of potentially hazardous water conditions, Beth Tokioka, executive assistant to Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., said it is the county’s preference to “have DOH at the table.”

“Currently our procedures call for us to close beaches and/or erect warning signs upon notification from the Department of Health,” she wrote in an e-mail.

The Clean Water Branch will soon be losing four of its 10 staff members under the state’s proposed layoffs, Monitoring and Analysis Section Chief Watson Okubo said last month.

“Even though we don’t know the cause, there should be warning signs,” Berg said, regarding Kalapaki stream’s continuously high levels of bacteria.

Pathogens from polluted waters cause illnesses such as vomiting, headache, fever, sore throat, diarrhea, skin, ear, eye and respiratory infections, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

• Coco Zickos, business and environmental writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or

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