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No answers after DOH tests

LIHUE — After three rounds of testing, the state Department of Health says it has been unable to pinpoint the source of pollution ending up in Waiopili Stream in Mahaulepu.

“We’re still looking,” said Watson Okubo, monitoring and analysis section chief of DOH’s Clean Water Branch.

Initially, Okubo suspected animals — chickens, sheep, goats and feral pigs — on the Grove Farm Company property were to blame for the high bacteria counts being found. A second round of testing, however, showed a spike in counts near the old guard shack, located on Grove Farm land near the entrance to the Makauwahi Cave Reserve, causing Okubo to question whether the source of pollution could be human waste from people using the site as a toilet or dumping site.

Now, following a third round of sampling Dec. 15, Okubo says animals are the likely the culprit.

“We checked the guard shack,” he said. “We don’t see any fecal material.”

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

Okubo said there are a lot of animals on the Grove Farm property, including feral pigs.

“We know that we can get really high (bacteria counts) from feral pigs,” he said.

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.

In the latest round of testing, all nine sample sites exceeded state water quality standards for enterococcus, with the highest bacteria counts tallied at and downhill of the guard shack, according to information posted on DOH’s website. 

Carl Berg, head of Surfrider Foundation of Kauai’s Blue Water Task Force, who first alerted DOH of the situation at Waiopili, said that while the highest counts reported by DOH were found closer to the mouth of the stream, samples taken high up in the valley still show alarming numbers. 

Berg said he agrees the source of the pollution is likely animal waste products. However, that doesn’t absolve the landowner from its moral and legal obligation to clean it up, he said.

“If they can’t control some pigs, how are they going to control the cows?” he said. “If a little bit of pigs up there causes this much pollution, what are the cows going to do? I think this is a revelation, or a warning sign, to Hawaii Dairy Farms that they have a drainage problem.”

Hawaii Dairy Farms could not be reached for comment by press time Monday.

Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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