MAHAULEPU — The black, tar-like goo coating the tidepools on the eastern side of Mahaulepu Beach is most likely a petroleum substance that washed onto the rocks from offshore, according to the state Department of Health.
A sampling plan starting this week will confirm the substance’s identity, according to DOH. The department is partnering with Pacific Environmental Corporation (PENCO) on the project.
Results will be available the week of Sept. 11, according to DOH.
“From what has been observed, it appears that a petroleum substance has washed ashore onto the rocks,” representatives of DOH said in a statement to TGI. “It is in the splash zone and has stabilized.”
The substance isn’t affecting fish or nearby wildlife, DOH said, adding that the sampling will provide more information, as well as determine the best way to remove the goo.
However, conservationists and community scientists question the impact of the substance, wondering how DOH determined whether plants and animals have been smothered by it.
“Is it affecting the edible limu there?” asked Carl Berg, ecologist and head of Surfrider Kauai’s Blue Water Task Force. “How did they determine that (it’s not affecting wildlife or plants)?”
The substance was discovered by Kauai residents in late July and DOH’s environmental department was alerted. DOH confirmed investigation into the substance on Aug. 17. No restrictions or warnings have been released in relation to the black goo.
“It has taken a long time for DOH to investigate,” Berg said.
Volunteers with the Kauai Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation say the substance looks like bunker fuel from passing container or cruise ships.
“I used to live on the East Coast and around Long Island you see those blobs often. It’s usually an industrial oil or a ship oil,” Surfrider Kauai’s Robert Zelkovsky told TGI.