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Stream warning wanted

LIHUE — Two community groups opposing the proposed south side dairy are petitioning state officials to post signs at Waiopili Stream cautioning the public about health risks associated with exposure to what they say are highly polluted waters.

Friends of Mahaulepu and the Kauai chapter of the Surfrider Foundation mailed a petition Thursday to the Department of Health and its Environmental Health Administration calling for the stream to be listed as an impaired waterway under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. They also requested the public health warning signage.

Bacteria tests conducted by Surfrider found that pollution levels in the stream are 275 times higher than the bacteria limits set by the government, according to data released by the ocean protection group. Test results from nearby waters where the stream meets the sea are nearly 17 times greater than state and federal limits, the data shows.

“We need to protect our waters from extreme pollution and the public has a right to know of the danger,” Friends of Maha’ulepu President Bridget Hammerquist said in a press release. “Grove Farm and the County of Kauai know there is a serious public health risk and that something has to be done to clean it up. It is only pono to warn people of the contamination by posting signs and listing streams, as has been done on the Hanalei River.”

The Health Department had not received the petition by 4 p.m. Monday, said spokeswoman Janice Okubo. But she said the department is aware of the stream’s high bacteria counts.

“When posting a water body, the highest concern is human sources of contamination,” she said in an email, adding that there are no sewer lines nor residential cesspools in the area, but rather, a large population of chickens, ducks and feral pigs. “The department will carefully review the petition when it is received and provide a response to the petitioners.”

In October, Grove Farm Company granted the Health Department access to its land in Mahaulepu to investigate the source of pollution in Waiopili Stream. After three rounds of testing, department officials were unable to pinpoint the pollution source. But health officials say fecal matter from chickens, sheep, goats and feral pigs is the likely culprit.

Representatives of Grove Farm Company, which owns the property, did not respond to a request for comment.

Waiopili flows off Grove Farm land and enters the ocean near Makauwahi Cave Reserve, downhill from the site of Hawaii Dairy Farms’ proposed 582-acre 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.

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