By Nathan Eagle; Civil Beat, 4 April 2016.
The state found high levels of bacteria in a Kauai stream, but posted no warnings because the waste is from animals. Surfrider Foundation says that’s a problem statewide.
State health officials are blaming the fecal waste of feral pigs, sheep, rats, birds and possibly a dozen land tortoises for polluting a stream that people frequent on the south shore of Kauai.
The Department of Health acknowledged in a long-awaited report last week that it has concerns about the public health issue at Waiopili Stream, but it won’t post warning signs about the extremely high levels of enterococcus detected in water surveys because no direct sources of human sewage could be identified.
The bacteria, a widely used indicator of fecal contamination, is found in animal and human intestines and can cause serious, even life-threatening diseases. Health officials maintain that when it’s in animal waste, it’s not nearly as dangerous to humans as their own sewage.
They have no plans to definitively determine whether the animals pose a significant risk of illness to humans.
The Surfrider Foundation has fought for years to have the department at least post warning signs when enterococcus levels exceed safe limits. The nonprofit organization, which independently tests water quality around Hawaii, contends it’s a statewide problem.
“It is irrelevant at very high concentrations whether that is human waste or animal waste; it is still a public health risk,” said Carl Berg, Surfrider’s Kauai chapter chair. The marine biologist and research scientist has been testing water quality on the Garden Isle for 20 years.
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