LIHUE — The Department of Health is making a trip to Kauai to explain their recent findings regarding the water quality in the Maha‘ulepu and Waikomo watersheds.
The meeting is scheduled 4 to 6 p.m. July 24 at the Kauai District Health Office. It is targeted at explaining how DOH determined that human waste is not the cause of bacterial contamination in the water tested as part of a study on water quality in the area.
That study was released in June and said the water was safe for swimming.
PhyloChip testing was used to track the source of high bacteria counts in places like the Waiopili Stream and along the shorelines in the Maha‘ulepu and Waikomo watersheds.
Scientists with The Berkeley Lab were contracted by DOH to lead the survey effort. Several conclusions were drawn, including the high concentrations of fecal indicating bacteria in the Waiopili Ditch and Waikomo Streams were not caused by human or animal fecal contamination.
Researchers did detect weak human signals in some samples from those streams, and in a coastal seep along the beachfront of the Poipu resort area. The strength of the human signal was comparable in magnitude and microbial composition to injection wells in Poipu, according to the study.
Some folks on Kauai, however, disagree — namely scientists with Surfrider Kauai’s Blue Water Task Force and members of Friends of Maha‘ulepu, a citizen-group fighting for clean water and community access in the watershed.
Their concerns are twofold: that DOH is being too bold in saying the water is safe for swimming and that the study itself isn’t as accurate as DOH says.
“The HDOH claims that the water in Maha‘ulepu is safe for human exposure despite inconsistent and conflicting data generated by the study and presented in the report,” says Surfrider’s John Alderete.
Representatives from DOH Clean Water Branch will be at the July 24 meeting. Also available by video conference will be one of the study’s principal investigators, Dr. Eric Dubinsky, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.