KOLOA — People should think twice about jumping into the water at Koloa Landing right now, according to the Kauai chapter of Surfrider and the state Department of Health, as a brown plume was seen there Tuesday afternoon.
“Two Surfriders who live near there saw a big plume and took a picture with their iPhone,” said Carl Berg, head of the Blue Water Task Force and Surfrider Kauai’s senior scientist.
Scott Valor, who took the photo emailed it to Berg Tuesday, said, “I took this photo about an hour ago, but it doesn’t do the plume justice. This is the biggest plume of outfall from Waikomo I have ever seen here.”
The plume was reported to the state Department of Health Tuesday afternoon, and DOH posted the brown water advisory on Wednesday afternoon.
“Stormwater has resulted in stormwater runoff entering into coastal waters,” said Janice Okubo, spokesperson for DOH. “Continue to practice good personal hygiene and follow-up with your primary care physician if you have any health concerns.”
Waikomo Stream enters Hanakaape Bay at Koloa Landing, and is one of the places Surfrider has been trying to have posted as chronically polluted, due to ongoing contaminated sample results from there.
Monthly, Surfrider samples Waikomo Stream and dozens of other places around Kauai, studying the concentration of enterococcus bacteria, which is an indicator of feces in the water.
March’s testing results showed a concentration of 1,539 enterococci parts per 100 mL. The state threshold is 130 enterococci parts per 100 mL. In February, BWTF’s samples yielded a concentration of 1,722 parts per 100 mL.
DOH samples in different places than Surfrider, near the shoreline instead of out in the bay and in the stream, and also has identified the area for further examination, according to Anna Koethe, DOH spokeswoman.
Still, Berg said Surfrider has been asking DOH to put a warning sign at Koloa Landing for five or six years to alert the public of the stream’s chronic contamination.
While the brown plume identified Tuesday in the bay could be made mostly of sediment and other runoff from recent rains, Berg said it represents the distribution of any bacteria that could be coming out of the stream.
Tuesday, several snorkelers were photographed swimming right in the middle of it.
“This stuff was obviously coming down the same stream which Surfrider measures all the time and has been asking DOH to put a warning sign on,” Berg said.
One of those warning signs was posted at Mahaulepu’s Waiopili Stream August 2016, according to DOH, after a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency forced DOH to post signs in the area.
Representatives from EPA said Wednesday they’d heard nothing about chronic pollution in Waikomo Stream.
And while the concentration of the brown plume may have dissipated since Tuesday afternoon, Berg said it’s important to remember that sometimes you can’t see contamination.
“You can have a lot of bacteria coming down that stream but it wouldn’t necessarily be brown and muddy,” Berg said. “If you’re scuba diving or snorkeling on the reef you’re outside the plume but when it’s time to come home you swim right through all that stuff.”