WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Glenn Martinez said the noise was so loud he ran down to the stream-fed ponds on his Waimanalo property Wednesday morning. He saw dozens of his tilapia flopping on the surface and on the grass that surrounds the ponds.
"We just watched 50 fish die in 30 minutes," he said.
By the end of the day hundreds of his fish had died. Martinez said what killed them was a thick white foam that flooded the ponds and the stream. It covered the surface of the water like a tall lid.
"All of a sudden the pond just started foaming up and our fish went crazy," he said.
Martinez said the foam was about two-feet thick and white. He and his wife, Liz, waded into the ponds and pulled out every fish they could. They put them into tanks and flushed them with fresh water. But they couldn't save them or the koi that were in the ponds.
Liz Martinez hiked upstream but couldn't find the source of the foam.
"There were all the conditions to create more bubbles. But it seemed as though the stream was now cleaning itself out," she said.
The Martinez's own an aquaponic farm. They design systems for other farmers and raise and sell tilapia for breeding. Besides the tilapia they also lost about a half-dozen large koi. They estimate their business losses at about $8,000. That doesn't count the value of future stock the fish could have produced.
"This is our backup supply to restock and go again. Now it's wiped out," Glenn Martinez said.
The water that goes into their ponds comes from the Koolau Mountain Range. The stream passes their property and eventually enters Waimanalo Bay.
"We felt up here there were so few neighbors close to us that we were a little bit impervious to this kind of exposure," Liz Martinez said.
The state Department of Health is testing water samples from the Martinez's ponds and the stream. A department spokesperson said inspectors also checked farther downstream but didn't see any dead fish..
"Something up there is coming out of the ground into this stream," Glenn Martinez said.
The couple won't put any more fish into their ponds until they know what caused the fish kill is gone.