Kaua‘i beach among most polluted

In a beach water quality report to be released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Hanama‘ulu Beach County Park tied for 10th place with two Mainland beaches in a list of polluted beaches in the nation that exceed national standards.

“Hanama‘ulu Beach exceeded the national standard by 55 percent,” Kaua‘i biologist Dr. Carl Berg said. “It was found polluted 55 percent of the time it was tested in 2007.”

In the same report, Hawai‘i was ranked 25th in the nation in samples that exceeded the state’s daily maximum bacterial standards in 2007. Kaua‘i had the highest exceedance in 2007 with 21 percent, followed by Honolulu with 10 percent, the Big Island with 9 percent and Maui with 5 percent. Hanama‘ulu Beach and Po‘ipu Beach ranked first and second with 82 percent and 47 percent, respectively, in exceeded state standards.

Samples taken from Hanama‘ulu Beach by state Department of Health officials were tested for enterococcus bacteria. Enterococcus is a bacteria found in the human intestine and a good bacterial indicator for determining human waste in recreational swimming waters.

If sample results exceed 104 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of beach water sampled, an advisory warning would be issued for the sampling site.

According to the report, Hawai‘i’s enterococcus standards are stricter than federal standards.

In the NRDC report, water at American beaches last year was unsafe for swimming with the second-highest number of beach closing and advisory days ever.

“Some families can’t enjoy their local beaches because they are polluted and kids are getting sick — largely because of human and animal waste in the water,” Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s clean water project, said in a statement. “What this report means for families heading to the beach is they need to be careful and do a little homework.”

The 18th annual beach water quality report used data from the Environmental Protection Agency report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches.” The EPA report shows the number of closing and advisory days at American beaches was more than 20,000 for the third consecutive year.

According to the report, the biggest drop in closing and advisory days due to abnormal rainfall in 2006 was in Hawai‘i, with a 36 percent reduction.

Though the numbers of beach closures and advisory days due to sewage spills and overflows more than tripled from 2006 to 2007, the largest known source of beach pollution continues to be contamination from stormwater.

In the report, stormwater caused more than 10,000 closing and advisory days; unknown sources of pollution resulted in more than 8,000 closing and advisory days.

Stormwater, an abnormal amount of surface water due to a heavy rainstorm, can carry pollution from the streets to the beach without treatment any time it rains.

“Some of these beach exceedances (on Kaua‘i) could have been caused by stormwater,” Berg said. “But it doesn’t rain that much near the airport (by Hanama‘ulu) or Po‘ipu. We deserve to know what that (the cause of the exceedance) is. We as a community deserve to know the source of that pollution.”

Berg said the DOH monitors the water near the beaches, while Surfrider Foundation volunteers sample water at surfing sites around the island.

“What Surfrider does is the exact same thing the DOH does,” Berg said. “The data is comparable.”

The DOH supports Surfrider taking samples, Berg added.

“Monitoring the water isn’t the goal,” Berg said. “The purpose of monitoring is to identify problems. We have a monitoring program because our goal is clean water.”

According to the NRDC, Beach Protection Act bills are pending in Congress that would provide for more money for beach water sampling. The bills would also require faster testing methods so the public could get timely information on whether it is safe to swim.

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or rgehrlein@kauaipubco.com

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