‘If the water is brown, turn around’
Heavy rains, ground saturation and flooding have caused major water pollution problems for Kauai.
The DOH has issued an islandwide Brown Water Advisory, which must be publicized.
Surfrider measured fecal indicating bacteria levels on Saturday, at the beginning of the flooding, and found most areas with bacteria counts in the thousands.
DOH should perform more testing in the coming weeks to let the public know when the waters are not contaminated with fecal indicating bacteria and not a public health risk.
Besides the expected washing of human and animal wastes, chemicals and debris off the ground surface itself, there are two other sources of pollution.
Beachside and riverside homes and public restroom facilities have had land eroded, exposing and washing away cesspools and septic systems. e.g. at Black Pot and Hanalei homes.
In addition the areas flooded (Hanalei, Anahola etc.) had their cesspools and septic systems filled with flood waters thus bringing contaminated waters to the surface. Flooded streets and yards are basically sewers.
But as the waters subside and drain into the ocean they will take the viruses, bacteria and chemicals through the ground and into the streams, rivers and ultimately the ocean.
The particulate mater will be strained out by the sand and soil, contaminating it for awhile.
While the ocean waters may look clean, groundwater contamination will continue, perhaps for weeks. My early studies in Hanalei, years ago, showed high levels of bacteria for over a week after rains stopped.
Contamination of surface water and groundwater by recent flooding demonstrates the foolishness of having cesspools and septic systems in low-lying, flood-prone areas.
With sea level rising and more catastrophic weather events predicted, sewage treatment infrastructure must be removed from coastal areas. ••• See A6 for Surfrider’s April 14 water report Carl J. Berg, Ph.D. ecologist Senior Scientist, Kauai Chapter The Surfrider Foundation