‘If the wa­ter is brown, turn around’

The Garden Island - - Morning Briefing -

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

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