MAHAULEPU — The search continues for the source of heavy bacterial contamination in the Waiopili Stream.
Independent scientists from around the nation arrived Monday to collaborate with Kauai experts and scientists from Hawaii Dairy Farm.
They will be scouring the South Shore site of the proposed dairy for sources of reportedly high levels of the bacteria Enterococcus in the stream. That’s an indication of feces — either human or animal — in the water and can cause urinary tract infections, sore throat and cold-like symptoms.
Friends of Mahaulepu, the organization that filed a Clean Water Act violation lawsuit against Hawaii Dairy Farm June 2015, is bringing in the experts as a result of a Feb. 29 ruling within the case.
The Clean Water Case is pending in federal court.
The ruling, handed down by U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi, allows Friends of Mahaulepu to find out if the proposed dairy’s 2014 preliminary construction had anything to do with the stream’s pollution.
Amy Hennessey, spokeswoman for Hawaii Dairy Farms, said she can’t comment on active litigation, but she said the organization is finalizing the environmental impact statement for HDF’s proposed dairy on about 575 acres roughly two miles north of the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa.
That study will look at a number of areas, including any impacts to ground and surface water, potential odor and native species issues.
“The important thing is we are committed to doing a project that is both environmentally and economically good for the community,” Hennessey said.
For the past several years, Surfrider Kauai Chapter’s Blue Water Task Force’s water samplings have shown the Waiopili Stream’s bacteria content to be thousands of times higher than federal standards.
Bridget Hammerquist, with Friends of Mahaulepu, said those counts have also been triple the total counts of all the other waterways and beaches on the island.
“It’s not safe for the public who plays and bathes in there, and there are children that play in that stream,” Hammerquist said.
Friends of Mahaulepu alleges that ditch-widening construction on the site, which occurred in 2014, could have triggered the chronically high levels of the bacteria in the area’s water.
“Whoever the genesis is isn’t so much the issue,” Hammerquist said, “The issue is that it (the pollution) needs to be stopped.”
Kauai County Council member Gary Hooser said water contamination is just the tip of the iceberg. He said the proposed dairy puts water aquifers at risk, jeopardizes coastal resources, and risks “serious negative impacts to the crown jewel of our visitor industry.”
“There is an increasing body of knowledge backed by solid science that clearly indicates the current location of the dairy is inappropriate on many levels,” Hooser said. “(It) just does not make sense.”
According to Hammerquist, the experts will be testing the water and soil on the site, as well studying the hydrology of the surrounding valley to determine soil drainage and stream connections.
“Part of the proposed site is well draining, but most of it, we’ve heard from people working in the field, is clay soil,” Hammerquist said. “That (a dairy) is a pretty disastrous plan on clay soil because that doesn’t percolate very well.”
While the issue of Clean Water Act violation still has to be decided, Paul Achitoff, managing attorney for the Mid-Pacific office of Earthjustice, said penalties for violating the act can potentially run into the millions of dollars.
“There are a lot of different possibilities in cases like this,” Achitoff said. “It’s not unusual for the parties to end up with a negotiated settlement.”