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Mahelona patients take a dip in the ponds

WAILUA — Josie Pablo, recreation director for Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital, and her corps of volunteers had to make adjustments for this year’s beach outing on Tuesday at Lydgate Park.

“We had to add the firemen to help us because of the new depths of the dredged Morgan’s Ponds,” Pablo said. “We’ve been doing this outing for the past 25 years and even with the new depths, we just made the adjustments.”

Previously, the hospital relied on volunteers from the Boy Scout Troop 83 and the Kaua‘i Community College Nursing Department students to help escort the residents out into the popular swimming area.

But that area changed with the dredging of Morgan’s Ponds, the project opening to the public on May 28, just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend.

“We also got brand new floaters through the Mahelona Hospital Auxiliary,” Pablo said. “This is the first time we’re using them. We also got a donation of a special flotation wheelchair fromSally Anson who bought it for her son, but he outgrew it.”

Pablo said in addition to making the adjustments for the new pool, which now has a depth of up to nine feet for swimming, she invited Steve Klein of the Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital to bring their patients.

“The KVMH people had a couple of outings before but (don’t) do it anymore, so we invited them to join the fun,” Pablo said.

The invitation brought the total number of patients enjoying the beach to more than 40, with 34 coming from Mahelona Hospital and six from KVMH. Of the six KVMH residents, two wanted to enjoy the water, Pablo said.

But not all of the users of Morgan’s Ponds have been so accomodating of the project, which saw the sea wall raised and strengthened using boulders, which were dredged out of the popular swimming area.

“We’ve had complaints,” said Norm Hunter, east district supervisor for the Ocean Safety Bureau corps of water safety officers. “During the last Fathers Day, the amount of swimmers using the ponds was one of the lowest we’ve seen.”

Mary Daubert, the county’s public information officer, said the mayor’s office received about a dozen calls when the ponds were first reopened about a month ago.

“The number of complaints dropped to just a few over the past two weeks,” Daubert said. “Most of the concerns were about the murkiness of the water, while others inquired about the circulation, as well as the amount of fish in the ponds.”

Andjela Gushiken, visiting from Macedonia, was enjoying the ponds with the aid of a swim mask, and was thrilled to see “four big ones.”

Hunter said most of the complaints were about the mud and the murkiness of the water.

“This is part of the healing process of the pond,” Hunter said. “There is a section where the water is clearer and that’s because of the wave action.”

Hunter said over the past few days, the lifeguards have noticed several new areas of bubbling, indicating the ocean has found ways to keep the water circulating in the popular swimming hole.

“In the long term, the Lydgate Ponds will benefit greatly from the restoration which was done,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. in an email. “Although we have received some complaints, we have also received many calls of support for the project and the benefits to the environment, which will be realized more and more over time.”

A state Department of Health report said water quality testing shows the salinity, the measure of the salt content in the water, remains stable at Morgan’s Ponds.

The DOH explanation accompanying the report states a measure of water quality is the presence of Enterococcus and Clostridium perfringens, indicator bacteria that signal fecal matter from humans and animals. Readings of both types of indicator bacteria were within acceptable levels for the recent samples, DOH reported.

Turbidity, a measure of light blockage or water clarity, continues to fluctuate, according to DOH. Turbidity NTU figures show a low of 1.45 on May 2, rising to a high of 29.9 on May 23, five days before the ponds were reopened to the public.

On May 31, the ponds had its murkiest conditions with the Turbidity NTC coming in at 33.4 and dropping to a low of 4.5 on June 22.

“We have been working proactively with the public, our lifeguards, our Parks crew and the state Department of Health to ensure Lydgate Park remains a safe place for the public to enjoy,” Carvalho said.

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