After a year, officials still don't know what's causing high bac - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

After a year, officials still don't know what's causing high bacteria levels in Kahaluu Lagoon

KAHALUU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Bacteria levels at Kahaluu Lagoon and the channel leading to Kaneohe Bay remain high, more than a year after health officials first posted warning signs along the waterways.

The Health Department posted the signs after water users complained that people were getting sick and contracting infections after being in the water

Unusually high numbers of bacteria found in wastewater were discovered following heavy rains, leading officials to suspect cesspool overflows and runoff may be the source of the contamination, but officials have yet to isolate the source.

Flora Obayashi, chairwoman of the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board, said, "The DOH team just partnered with UH (University of Hawaii) to identify the source of the bacteria which is more upstream on freshwater Kahaluu stream." 

She added, "There's a UH scientist with expertise the DOH team doesn't have.”

In the bay where the Keahiakahoe Canoe Club practices, Obayashi says the board was told the bacteria counts were lower because of saltwater and sun.

Obayashi said the Health Department's work to determine the source of the bacteria appeared to slow in 2015.

Now that hurricane season is over, Obayashi is hoping the DOH-UH partnership will provide the board with the information it needs.

"They have to test all along the stream to the base of the Koolau Mountain," she said.

Meanwhile, farmers are complaining that the cesspool tax credit of $10,000, expected to begin in tax year 2016, isn't enough to cover the expenses to upgrade to septic tanks.

Obayashi said, "Septic tank with liners, labor and installation costs, contracting for excavators and heavy equipment could cost upwards of $40,000 to $50,000. It's been said that the legislators are ignoring the auxiliary expenses of upgrading."

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