HANALEI — Despite the odor of cow manure and the brown water advisory currently cast over Kauai, surfers were taking on the waves in Hanalei Bay on Monday.
And on Tuesday, the state Department of Health lifted brown water advisories for eight beaches across the island including Hanalei Bay Pavilion, Waioli Beach Park, Anahola Bay Pavilion, Kealia Beach Park, Kalapaki, Poipu, Salt Pond and MacArthur Park.
“I’m just going to go home and take a hydrogen peroxide shower,” said Vance Collins after a late Monday morning session at Hanalei Bay. “The waves are good.”
Collins has been busy with post-flood cleanup for the past week and said he needed to recharge, and he wasn’t the only one taking a cleaning break that morning.
“It’s kinda grimy, but way better than last night,” said Noelle Baxter, who is visiting her parents in Hanalei with her husband Stephen Baxter.
The couple is from Santa Cruz, California. Their vacation turned into a cleanup mission, Baxter explained, and they’ve been cleaning layers of mud out of the family’s house. Monday morning they’d just gotten out of the water and were on their way to help scoop up some more mud before it hardened.
Sunday night, they hit up the waves in Hanalei Bay to unwind and Stephen said he thought the conditions were prime for sharks with the murky water and large chunks of debris floating in the surf, but they didn’t see any.
“Look out there on the sand, there’s a huge log out there, right now,” he said, pointing to part of a tree that was being tossed by waves a couple hundred feet offshore from the pier.
An incoming swell helped to clear the water Monday morning, according to the Baxters and to Collins, who said his theory is that the offshore break pushes the water from the Hanalei River into the nearshore waters of the bay.
“All the bacteria and everything is in the soil, so you can see how the worst of it would be in water near the beach here,” Collins said. “I was surfing further out, so the water seems more clear, but I’m not out there testing it.”
The Hawaii Department of Health and the Kauai Surf rider Blue Water Task Force have been out testing water around the island, finding the condition of water quality.
HDOH has one Clean Water Branch employee on Kauai, Gary Ueunten, who regularly collects samples on Mondays and his April 23 testing added a few extra sites to aid in flood response and identify beaches that are safe for swimming.
DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the focus has been at McArthur Park, Hanapepe Salt Pond, Poipu Beach Pavilion, Kalapaki Beach, Lydgate Park, Kealia Beach Park, Anahola Bay Pavilion, Hanalei Bay Pavilion and Waioli Beach Park.
Carl Berg, head of Blue Water Taskforce, pointed out that means they’re focusing on beaches that are hotspots for tourists, not places generally frequented by locals.
“No samples in Hanalei or up north,” he said. “They want to know where it is clean.”
The latest Surfrider results, released April 14 showed elevated enterococci bacteria numbers at every sampling site save for Waiohai Surf in Poipu, Salt Pond Surf, Kealia Surf and Pinetrees Surf in Hanalei.
With a state mandated threshold of 130 enterococci per 100 mL, Middles Surf in Hanalei results were 3,448 per 100 mL; Waikoko Surf was at 228 bacteria per 100 mL; Hanalei River at Weke Road had 9,208 bacteria per 100 mL; and Hanalei Pier test results showed more than 11,199 bacteria per 100 ml.
The testing equipment can only record up to 24,196 bacteria per 100 mL according to Berg and the tests taken at Kilauea Stream Mouth and the Moloaa Stream Mouth both surpassed that threshold.
Tuesday, BWT released numbers taken Monday at some of the places DOH tests showing bacteria counts over the state threshold for five out of the 12 locations including Hanamaulu Beach, Waikomo Stream, Koloa Landing, Kealia Beach, and Middles Beach in Hanalei Bay.
Pinetrees, Pavilion Beach, Hanalei Pier, Kalapaki Beach, Anahola Beach, Kapaa Beach and the Waikoko Beach in Hanalei Bay were all below the state-set threshold.
Because of the high numbers of enterococci tallied by Surfrider’s BTW, Berg says he thinks the DOH’s brown water advisory should be elevated to sewage spill status.
“People are telling me that there are spots where the beach really smells like sewage,” he said.
While the DOH brown water advisory does advise public to stay out of brown water because of “possible overflowing cesspools, sewers, manholes, pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, pathogens, chemicals and associated flood debris,” they don’t post signs with brown water advisories.
Signs are needed, Berg says, because the water isn’t clean and if a sewage spill is declared, “keep out” signs are posted by DOH.
But, a direct source of sewage hasn’t been identified, and that’s why DOH has stuck with its brown water advisory, and brown water advisories aren’t posted with signs.
“Brown water advisories come quickly and may affect large expansive areas, it is not feasible or practicable to send staff out to post signs at all affected locations,” Okubo said.
She continued: “Instead, DOH uses press releases, public messaging, its opt-in online mobile device notification system and the online web interface to rapidly notify the public about potential hazards from predicted or ongoing brown water and flooding events.”