MAHAULEPU, KAUAI - The state has discovered high levels of bacteria in a Kauai stream, but warning signs won't be posted.
That's because contamination in Waiopili Stream is from the fecal waste of feral animals and plant sources, not humans.
The decision has irked environmentalists.
The Surfrider Foundation has been urging the state to take action, after the group found excessive levels of enterococcus bacteria, indicating fecal contamination, in the stream.
"The last one that was done on March 12 was 120 times higher than the allowable limit," said Stuart Coleman, of the Surfrider Foundation.
A sanitation survey done by the state also confirmed high levels of enterococci, but health officials said the study found no direct sources of human waste.
"Generally speaking, those kinds of endemic contaminations from naturally occurring animal and plant contamination has a lesser impact on human infections," said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director for environmental health.
The Surfrider Foundation wants the state to put up warning signs when levels exceed safe limits.
"They're so high that it doesn't matter whether it's human or animal. It's just dangerous and so they need to post signs and we don't understand why, if your job is to protect human health, why you wouldn't just post signs?" said Coleman.
The Environmental Protection Agency is providing the health department with $107,000 for specialized sampling which should reveal if human sewage is contributing to the pollution.
DOH officials are concerned about the large number of cesspools and injections wells in the neighboring Poipu/Koloa watershed that could impact Waiopili Stream. The stream is a man-made irrigation ditch, according to the state.
"We also advise the public that in any kind of stream that has been posted or not been posted that they take proper precautions to look at what the area could be potentially contaminated," said Kawaoka.
The next phase of water quality testing is expected to start this summer.