Surfrider: Most of nation’s water safe

WAIMEA — The waters in the United States are relatively safe for swimming, according to the 2015 Clean Water Report released Thursday by the Surfrider Foundation.

“While 30 percent of nationwide water quality samples tested had medium to high levels of bacteria, the good news for beachgoers is that 70 percent of the samples reported low-bacteria levels with conditions safe to swim or surf,” said Mara Dias, The Surfrider Foundation water quality manager.

The fourth annual Clean Water Report focused on the impacts of two programs: The Blue Water Task Force and Ocean Friendly Gardens. The Blue Water Task Force is a water-quality testing program that began in 2011, and Ocean Friendly Gardens is a new program to the foundation.

According to a press release from Surfrider Foundation, the BWTF reported 1,924 test results in their first year and the program has grown to more than 30 labs, running over 4,600 water samples collected from 317 different sampling sites.

Dias said Surfrider chapters in Virginia and Oregon have produced success stories, with local communities embracing citizen science, but she said Kauai has proven to be more difficult for The Blue Water Task Force.

“Despite the consistently high bacteria readings, the Kauai chapter has presented to the Hawaii State Department of Health, the state has failed to even notify the public of the hazards of recreating in bacteria-laden waters,” Dias said.

A few years ago, the Kauai Chapter worked with DOH to post a sign at the mouth of the Hanalei River warning beachgoers of water pollution, but the organization is pushing for signage at other Kauai locations where their testing has shown chronic pollution of the waters.

Ocean Friendly Gardens began this year and offers natural solutions for using urban runoff and decreasing ocean pollution from residential yards and gardens.

The program has just gotten its start on Kauai, but nationwide the chapter network has prevented more than 13 million gallons of urban runoff from reaching the coast.

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