Grove Farm OKs state testing

LIHUE — Grove Farm Company has given the state Department of Health permission to access its land in Mahaulepu and investigate the source of pollution in Waiopili Stream.

“We’ll do the sanitary survey right up the watershed, from the ocean to the mountain, and we’ll see what we find,” said Watson Okubo, monitoring and analysis section chief of DOH’s Clean Water Branch.

Okubo and his team are scheduled to be on the property Nov. 5 and 6. Following the Hawaii sanitary survey framework, they will collect a minimum of eight samples to be tested for fecal indicating bacteria, he said.

“They understood this survey can either benefit or hurt them,” Okubo said of Grove Farm. “But at least the scientific facts (will be) laid out.”

Waiopili flows off Grove Farm land and enters the ocean near Makauwahi Cave Reserve and downhill from the site of Hawaii Dairy Farms’ proposed dairy. Recent testing has shown it is currently Kauai’s most polluted stream — one of several that continuously fails to meet state water quality standards.

“We are working with the Department of Health and have allowed them access to conduct a survey,” wrote Marissa Sandblom, Grove Farm vice president.

In a single 100 ml sample, there should be less than 104 counted enterococcus — bacteria which indicates contamination from feces of warm-blooded animals, including humans. If the count exceeds 104, the water is considered polluted. The geometric average, or geomean, of five collected samples should not exceed more than 35 bacteria per 100 ml.

Waiopili’s geomean of 14 samples taken since April is 8,806 bacteria — 250 times the state standard — according to results provided by Carl Berg of the Surfrider Foundation Kauai Chapter. One sample, taken July 20, tallied more than 24,196 bacteria, the highest reading possible with the technology Berg uses.

In comparison, Hanamaulu and Nawiliwili streams, two other chronically polluted bodies of water, have geomeans of 683.2 and 366.6 bacteria, respectively.

In response to the high counts reported by Berg, DOH collected its own sample at Gillan’s Beach on July 23. The sample registered greater than 2,005 enterococcus bacteria and greater than 50 chlostridium, a second indicator of fecal contamination, according to data on the department’s website.

Okubo said that while it is important to conduct the survey and ensure the public is protected, high counts don’t necessarily mean human waste is present — only the possibility.

Berg, however, argues it shouldn’t matter; that background levels still present a public health risk. 

“Just because it’s background doesn’t mean it’s safe,” he said. “Just because you’ve been robbing the bank for 20 years doesn’t mean it’s OK to rob the bank today.” 

In March, Berg began collecting samples from the area in order to establish a water quality baseline prior to HDF bringing dairy cows onto the land.

He says he has been shocked at the numbers and to find out that Mahaulepu is far from the pristine environment it is known as.

DOH has collected three previous samples from Gillan’s Beach, in August of 2008, June of 2010 and February of 2011. The 2011 sample is the only other that exceeded the maximum count of 104 bacteria, with a count of 254.

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