Troubling test results show elevated levels of bacteria in Kaneohe Bay
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Recent water testing conducted by the Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force shows elevated levels of pollution in Kaneohe Bay.
Some of the most troubling results include elevated levels of enterococcus — fecal bacteria that indicates the presence of human or animal waste.
Of 20 sites tested, half came back at levels exceeding “beach action value” — the standard most widely used to make water and beach management decisions.
Some of the sites with the highest levels: Kahaluu, Hakipuu Boat Ramp, and Waiahole.
A part of the problem, according to the Surf Rider Foundation, is land-based runoff.
But their research suggests the major culprit is cesspools. The Kahaluu testing site is located in a priority one cesspool area, which had some of the highest levels of the bacteria.
“Our data indicates that coastal cesspools are likely contributing to high bacteria readings in certain areas of the island,” said Dan Amato, coordinator of the Oahu Blue Water Task Force.
“In addition, large storms can contribute to elevated bacteria levels in coastal areas as flowing streams wash everything from upstream — pollutants, bacteria, nutrients, pesticides — into the ocean.”
Hawaii lawmakers did pass a bill banning cesspools at new construction homes.
There’s also a law on the books that will force all cesspools to be converted to wastewater systems by 2050 and lawmakers are eyeing a bill that would require conversion for homes that sell.
“To me, it’s a much bigger societal issue than a single homeowner deciding to replace their cesspool,” said Arleen Velasco, a volunteer with the Surfrider Foundation Oahu Chapter.
“The problem with the geology of the Hawaiian islands (especially here) is that we don’t have the luxury of being able to simply replace our cesspools with a septic system which requires a leach field.”
The study also points to climate change as a contributing factor to the unhealthy bacteria levels as sea level rise only makes the problem worse.
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