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.