Cash for water monitoring — but not Kauai streams

LIHUE — Water quality monitoring in Hawaii just got a $300,000 boost from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, but the state Department of Health won’t be using the cash to sample Kauai’s streams.

That’s because the money comes through the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act and covers sampling only at sites specified in the Hawaii Beach Monitoring Program.

Those sites are split up into three tiers depending upon a checklist of factors like accessibility, number of lifeguards and the availability of shower and restroom facilities.

Tier one beaches are monitored on Kauai once a week and the rest on an as-needed basis.

Kauai has five tier one sites at Hanalei Beach, Poipu Beach, Salt Pond Beach, Kalapaki Beach and Lydgate State Park. There are 21 tier two beaches on the island including Ke‘e, Anahola Beach, Shipwreck, Kealia, Lumahai and Spouting Horn.

All of those places, along with the rest that make up the 49 tier 1 and 135 tier 2 sampling sites statewide, are monitored by Clean Water Branch staff members and there is one on each of the main islands.

Brown water advisories and other notifications are posted when conditions dictate, according to DOH. EPA representatives say the money should help streamline notifications and monitoring.

“EPA is making the funds available to DOH to strengthen their monitoring and notification programs, and to make monitoring results readily available to the public,” said Dean Higuchi, EPA spokesman.

DOH says it will continue to protect beach goers from pollution by collecting water samples at major recreation locations, providing outreach to citizen groups, and posting advisories following sewage spills or high bacterial counts.

In a June 23 conversation with The Garden Island newspaper, DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo pointed out the Beach Monitoring Program is only part of the state water monitoring activities in an atmosphere of restricted resources.

“With added workload required to fulfill the beach monitoring requirements, work in other areas will be reduced,” she said. “EPA provides funding to carry out the BEACH Act. This funding does not provide sufficient resources to carry out all of the elements required by EPA. The BEACH Act is just one small part of the overall function of the CWB.”

Surfrider Kauai’s Blue Water Task Force also monitors the water quality on Kauai in surf breaks and stream mouths.

The organization’s leaders said Surfrider is encouraged that EPA continues to support the monitoring and information capabilities of the state DOH, but hopes the money is used to sample “more than just the beaches primarily used by tourists.”

“Issuance of BWA via media is not enough, Surfrider advocates for the placement of BWA signs on the beaches, especially at popular beaches with lifeguard stations,” said Carl Berg, head of BWTF and senior scientist of Kauai Surfrider Chapter.

He continued: “Warning signs need to be placed at sites chronically polluted stream and river mouths, as DOH did at Mahaulepu.”

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Jessica Else, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or at jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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