Monday, February 22, 2010

More Testing Sites in Kaua'i

The Surfrider Chapter on Kaua'i has been asking the State of Hawaii to cover more beaches and post warning signs at beaches contaminated with bacterial pollution for years now. On the first count they have had some success, as the State DOH has expanded their beach sampling plan to include a popular surf spot and other known bacterial hot spots. The State still hesitates to post any new warning signs, however, until the source of pollution is identified. Unfortunately, not a very precautionary stance to take.

The Chapter's BWTF program continues to sample on Hawaii and to petition the DOH to pay more attention to Kaua'i beach water pollution problems. They hope that not only will the public have more water quality information available to them before they hit the beach, but that the sources of pollution can identified and fixed.

The latest story in an ongoing series on water quality in Kaua'i follows.

DOH to expand water sampling

Coco Zickos - The Garden Island | Posted: Sunday, February 21, 2010 12:30 am

• Editor’s note: This is the eighth article in an ongoing series that examines Kaua‘i water quality.

LIHU‘E — The state Department of Health recently announced its intention to expand the number of water quality testing sites on Kaua‘i, including the popular Westside surf spot Pakala, according to an e-mail from Judy Kern at the Hawai‘i DOH Communications Office on Friday.

Also known as bacteria hot-spots, four sites fronting Pakala Camp and one site west of the village, have been monitored since Feb. 9, Kern said.

“If we determine that the high enterococcus levels are due to human fecal contamination, we will post signage at the beach and possibly the surf site to advise the public,” she said.

Though the source of contamination is inconclusive, the large capacity cesspools remaining on Gay & Robinson property are in the process of being replaced, DOH Deputy Director Laurence Lau said Friday.

The Environmental Protection Agency outlawed large capacity cesspools that service 20 or more people during a 24-hour time period in Hawai‘i on April 5, 2005.

“They are overdue to be closed and replaced,” Lau said Friday.

The DOH Kaua‘i Clean Water Branch has been working with Gay & Robinson to “resolve issues of large capacity cesspools on their property,” Kern said. Twenty septic tanks have been installed at Camp 6 and they “will continue with installations at the ‘Avenue’ and Pakala Camp.”

The process “takes time and money,” Kern added in the e-mail. “The other alternative is to shut down the camps, but such action will displace elderly retirees and create additional social issues within the community.”

Alan Kennett, president of Gay & Robinson, has declined to comment on the remaining large capacity cesspools on property.

Lau said high counts of enterococcus (a bacteria commonly found in the feces of humans and animals) does “not necessarily mean human sewage.”

“We need to do more testing,” he said.

Kaua‘i Surfrider Foundation agrees that more testing should be conducted. The nonprofit’s Blue Water Task Force collects water samples on a monthly basis across the island.

Two sites have “consistently exceeded Hawai‘i Administrative Rules’ water quality standards,” said Surfrider’s water quality expert Dr. Carl Berg. They are Pakala and Nawiliwili Stream.

The nonprofit officially filed a complaint with the DOH on Wednesday regarding the public’s safety at the two heavily frequented recreational water locations which contain chronically high levels of bacteria.

Large capacity cesspools “near the old sugar camp and the other near a stream bed” are a health concern, the Surfrider letter states.

“Another area of concern is Nawiliwili Stream which empties into Kalapaki Bay by the Marriott Hotel and the Kaua‘i County Beach Park,” Berg said. The stream is known to contain high levels of Clostridium, Enterococcus, fRNA, and Somatic RNA — all found in sewage.

The area is of “special concern,” as children frequently “play in the stream at its mouth,” the “stream water drains directly in front of the county park and out into the very popular surfbreak” and “at times the stream water moves along the shoreline and contaminates the beach fronting the Marriott hotel,” Berg said.

The DOH is expected to also begin conducting “special sampling” at Nawiliwilii Stream, according to Kern.

“Many streams in the state have high enterococcus counts,” she said. “In this case, the area (Nawiliwili) is located near a popular beach and surf site. The area has been the scene of sewage spills, a sink hole, and receives storm water runoff from the surrounding area including Lihu‘e town.”

A warning sign should be installed at the mouth of the stream, Berg said.

“We think it is long past time to warn the public about the possible public health risks of this stream while a waste water assessment, or other such study to determine the cause of the continually high levels of fecal indicating bacteria, is completed,” he said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Addressing Watershed Pollution with Volunteer Data in Ventura, CA

Throughout the fall and winter of 2008, the Ventura Surfrider Chapter and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, through their Stream Team partnership, have collected water quality data and photo- documented contaminated discharges from a ranch whose discharge entered the Ventura River immediately upstream of Surfer's Point.

The Chapter submitted official complaints to the City of Ventura and other local agencies regarding the ongoing pollution. SB Channelkeeper submitted the Stream Team's water quality data and information to the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Regional Board inspected the operation and met with ranch managers and representatives from the Ventura County Farm Bureau and ordered the ranch to install best management practices (BMPs) to eliminate the pollution.

According to the Farm Bureau, over the last year, the ranch has installed a number of measures to improve water quality including micro sprinklers, 2 major grass lined ditches and sediment basins to filter out sediment before it leaves the property. So far, water quality data collected in 2009 and visual observations suggest that the BMPs have made a difference, but more monitoring is required before the effectiveness of the BMP in reducing polluted discharges to the Ventura River from the subject ranch can be determined. The Stream Team will continue to sample and monitor the water quality in this location throughout 2010.

Congratulations to Ventura for getting their data out into the community and pushing their neighbors to be better stewards of their watershed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Winter Sampling in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Surfrider Chapter collects water samples year-round, so there is information available when a beautiful winter swell, like the one above, hits. RI's 2010 BWTF data is posted on the University of Rhode Island's website.

On The Edge

Water Test Results

by Peter Pan,
posted on Saturday, February 6th, 2010 at 11:12 am

The 2010 edition of the Surfrider Foundation Blue Water Task Force ocean water testing cycle began two weeks ago in relatively calm seas off the local coastline. On January 23, volunteer surfers braved the frigid air and water temperatures to collect their samples at 12 of the area’s premier surfing breaks. Despite the fact that there had been no major storm activity, there was some evidence of water pollution found in the results that were released yesterday. Several groups of bacteria species are used to indicate the presence of human sewage and associated pathogens or disease causing organisms. In Rhode Island two groups are monitored in order to protect human health-fecal coliforms and enterococci.

The highest pollution readings came at the same two problem spots. Both K-39 and the Weekapaug Breechway tested at 41 and 42 enterococci per 100 mL of water samples. The Rhode Island Department of Health standard for recreational contact (swimming and surfing) is 35 enterococci per 100 mL. or less. This means that there were increased risks of contracting gastrointestinal illnesses from water contact at those two surf spots. Although the criteria for marine waters is higher at 104 enterococci per 100 mL. this does not mean that the ocean water was clean by any standards. Local surfers are advised to avoid swallowing ocean water and covering up the ears when surfing these areas. It is also wise not to surf with an open cut or sore. All other surf breaks showed an average of 10 enterococci per 100 mL. which was passable and clean by Rhode Island Department of Health standards.

In the other water test involving fecal coliforms the Scarborough Beach South area showed the highest pollution content at 13 fecal coliform per 100 mL. Both Conant Avenue and First Beach in Newport had readings of 10 fecal coliforms per 100 mL. The standard for pollution alert is 14 fecal coliforms per 100 mL. so while both surf spots are just under the minimum requirements for pollution it is advisable not to surf without covering the ears and avoiding swallowing the ocean water at both locations.

Some volunteers felt that if the heavy rains that followed the water testing had occurred earlier the pollution levels probably would have been substantially higher at all the breaks. Blue Water Task Force coordinator Lauren Russo of Charlestown said that she was very pleased at the first turnout of volunteer water testers and appreciated the fact that all the testers had to paddle out in the water early in the morning to get the samples on the 23rd. The next test will take place on February 6th. For more information on volunteering to collect the samples, interested participants are asked to email Lauren at

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Santa Monica Students Report Pollution after Heavy Rains

Source: Santa Monica Daily Press

Students find high levels of bacteria in bay

January 28, 2010

SM BAY — Students at Santa Monica High School were shocked to see extremely high levels of bacteria present in the waters here following last week’s heavy rains.

The students, enrolled in the Surfrider Teach & Test program monitoring water quality in the Santa Monica Bay, found bacteria levels weighing in at more than double what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe, warning surfers and swimmers to make sure they stay out of the water for at least 72 hours after it rains.

The rains send urban pollutants and fecal bacteria into storm drains and onto local beaches, raising the risk for contracting a serious infection, said Lindsey Jurca, educational chair for the Surfrider Foundation’s Malibu and Santa Monica chapters.

“High bacteria levels are expected when it rains because everything from the streets floods the ocean, but the kids and the public are generally not aware of how high the level of bacteria can be,” Jurca said. “When they do find out, some are pretty shocked.”

Bacteria levels at the Santa Monica Pier were 223, which is 119 organisms per milliliter higher than the EPA safety threshold of 104, according to Surfrider. The Pico-Kenter storm drain at the end of Pico Boulevard had bacteria levels that averaged at 120, and Ocean Park sampled at 331.

Samohi students also tested water quality at the storm drain underneath the pier, which City Hall replaced last year due to leaks that were causing poor water quality grades. Bacteria levels in the storm drain runoff were 7,915 — more than 75 times higher than what the EPA considers safe.

Students specifically tested for the presence of enterococcus bacteria, a fecal bacteria whose presence indicates that other disease-causing bacteria and viruses might also be present, which can lead to respiratory illness; stomach flu; and ear, nose, throat and eye infections.

“Fecal bacteria is just one of the many harmful things urban runoff carriers, which can include trash, cigarette butts, pathogens and even heavy metals,” said student Katie Rowbotham.

While testing is needed, students plan to step up their efforts to protect the public by participating in a new warning system at local surf shops. Jurca said students plan to provide surf shops with weekly updates to water quality reports so that surfers, who often can’t resist the high tides that come with rain storms, be more prepared. The reports should be posted in a month, Jurca said.

The Teach & Test program at Samohi is funded through Surfrider and a grant from the California Coastal Commission. The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of keeping dangerous urban runoff from reaching the bay. Students are also encouraged to consider careers in science.