MAHAULEPU — The private access road to Mahaulepu Beach will be closed to the public starting Monday at the recommendation of the state Department of Health, and some locals are questioning the motives.
The restricted access will run through the end of November while DOH performs specialized PhyloChip testing of the Waiopili Ditch to determine the nature of contaminants in the water.
“The department appreciates Mahaulepu Farm’s cooperation during our water quality study to determine the cause of high bacteria levels found in previous studies,” said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of environmental health. “Restricting access to the area will help ensure the accuracy of our sampling.”
High levels of enterococci bacteria have been reported both by DOH researchers and members of the Surfrider Blue Water Task Force in that location and the stream was recently posted with warning signs.
But, some are questioning the closure.
“It’s hard to say their motives are scientifically sound,” said Bridget Hammerquist, head of Friends of Mahaulepu. “It doesn’t make sense their choosing to close Mahaulepu and not other sites that have similar bacteria problems.”
It’s particularity confusing, she said, after reading a statement from Stuart Yamada, DOH clean water branch director, in a Sept. 13 TGI article, who said the goal of DOH’s uptick in water quality education wasn’t to close beaches.
“I don’t know what changed their mind, but that’s frustrating,” Hammerquist said.
Representatives of Grove Farm, affiliate of Mahaulepu Farm, which owns the affected area, said the intention is to reopen the private road once testing is completed.
“As a long time steward of the land, we have been cooperatively working with DOH over many months to get to the bottom of the issue,” said Marissa Sandblom, vice president of Grove Farm. “We will cooperate fully with DOH as we understand that it is important to conduct further tests. We ask for the public’s understanding during this temporary inconvenience.”
The PhyloChip analysis will be able to determine whether the bacteria originates from environmental sources or fecal sources and will be able to determine what type of animal is involved.
Carl Berg, head of Surfrider Kauai Blue Water Task Force, said Waiopili stream must be cleaned up and cannot be further contaminated by current or proposed tenants of Grove Farm properties.
“According to EPA, regardless of the source, levels of bacteria that high indicate a significant public health risk and warrant posting of warning signs,” he said. “Hence, the posting of Gillin’s beach and Waiopili Stream. Experiemental testing will allow DOH to recommend effective mitigation efforts to stop the polluting of state recreational waters.”
He added: “It is interesting that DOH is not closing access to Waikomo stream or other areas in Poipu or on Oahu being tested, only beach access through Grove Farm property.”