Does the source of fecal matter? Post warning signs!

I read the May 12 Garden Island article covering the petition filed by Surfrider Foundation and “Friends of Mahaulepu” to list Waiopili Muliwai (Estuary) as an impaired body of water. The article fails to note information presented in The Garden Island’s previous coverage of this issue on Dec. 6, 2014.

In the previous TGI article, the DOH stated that the waste included both human and animal fecal material. This directly contradicts the repeated misleading claims in the current article that the source of the contamination is believed to be pigs, chickens and ducks.

To my knowledge, ducks and pigs do not carry the enterococci bacteria found in the samples, and the sheer number of chickens defecating directly into the stream to reach the readings collected are preposterous. I give them 4 “Pinocchio’s” for misrepresentation.

TGI (Dec. 6) “After a second round of sampling, the state Department of Health suspects human waste may be the source of pollution ending up in Waiopili Stream in Mahaulepu. Of the 11 sites tested on the property — spanning from the reservoir in upper Mahaulepu Valley down to the mouth of Waiopili Stream — the sample taken nearest the guard shack tallied the highest counts of fecal indicating bacteria, including enterococci and clostridium.

“Either someone is dumping sewage or the shack is used as a restroom,” Watson Okubo, monitoring and analysis section chief of DOH’s Clean Water Branch, wrote in an email.

Most importantly, that article pointed out that the source of the fecal contamination does not eliminate the public health risk. Both sources are known to cause serious health problems when people come in contact with the contaminated water. As the public probably knows, DOH posts signs warning of contaminated waters when leptospirosis (from animal waste) is found.

So does the source of the fecal matter matter? I, for one, think DOH should act on the side of keeping the public safe, and list the stream, posting the appropriate warning signs.

DOH is now reluctant to post the stream, and implicitly suggests that animal fecal material does not pose a serious health risk being that the contamination is “all” due to feral animals. That certainly wasn’t DOH’s tune earlier in the TGI article last December … the fecal contaminants create a serious health risk whether from human or animal waste.

Dr. Carl Berg of the Surfrider Foundation reported in a community meeting earlier this year in Koloa that he had acquired an infection wading in Waiopili to collect a sample. Unaware visitors wading across, or small children playing at the estuary, experience an unacceptable level of risk due to the DOH’s reticence.

I find most disturbing, however, the DOH’s and landowner’s mischaracterization, attempting to blame feral animals (therefore beyond purview of the DOH) for the contamination when their testing verified presence of enterococci and clostridium.

Public safety demands posting until attaining acceptable levels. Disavowing responsibility, or misrepresenting facts is reprehensible.

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Kalanikumai‘O Na Ali‘i Hanohano is a resident of Koloa.

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