KAILUA-KONA — Michael Kahookaulana connects a long green garden hose to a faucet behind the lifeguard stand at Laaloa Bay Magic Sands beach and rinses himself off before turning the hose on his dripping baby and bikini-clad wife.
A local and longtime surfer, Kahookaulana knows the importance of promptly removing the saltwater, sunblock residue and whatever else is lurking in the turquoise waters at one of the Big Island’s most popular beaches.
He also has a good idea — even without looking at the data provided by the state — which of the island’s beaches are cleanest, and when is the best time to avoid them.
“Here, there’s a lot of oil from suntan lotion,” he said Thursday. “On the Hamakua coast, you get river water mixed in and whatever it’s bringing down from the fields. … The quality of the water, you can really tell. I definitely know the water all around the island.”
So does Neil Mukai. The only state environmental health specialist on the island charged with water sampling, Mukai spends his workday driving his state truck beach-to-beach, surf-spot-to-surf-spot, dipping up water in his battered metal bucket.
Despite some short-term spikes in fecal bacteria, waters around the Big Island show levels well below those considered unsafe. But most of the average readings for enterococci — the primary measure of contamination used by the U.S. Environmental Management Agency — have been steadily increasing over the past 10 years.
In fact, average beach fecal bacteria levels have increased five-fold between 2006 and 2016 at key West Hawaii beaches and 134 percent on the Hilo side.
See the rest of the article here…