By Nina Wu
Hawaii ranked seventh out of 30 states in beach water quality, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council's annual "Testing the Waters: A Guide to Quality at Vacation Beaches" report.
While that's better than the previous year, Hawaii residents should still have some concerns, given that four percent of ocean water samples exceeded national standards in 2011. Beaches of concern (exceeding national standards) include Nawiliwili Harbor (13%), Lumaha'i Beach (13%), Ke‘e Beach (18%), Hanalei Beach Park (22%) and Kalihiwai Bay (20%) in Kauai County; and Honoli'i Beach Park (16%) and Pelekane Bay (13%) in Hawaii County.
NRDC, an international non-profit group, advocates strong policies to identify unsafe beach water quality as well as to protect beach goers from waterborne illnesses.
In 2011, there were a total of 4,691 warning/advisory days due to stormwater runoff and five warning/advisory days due to sewage spills in Hawaii.
Last year, NRDC expressed concerns about water problems because several homes on Mokauea Island in Ke‘ehi Lagoon were directly discharging sewage into the ocean. The homes that are currently occupied there now have a dry compost system, reports NRDC. Beachwater sampling around the island has verified these systems are working properly.
Another area of concern lies with the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, operated by Maui County, which uses injection wells to dispose of sewage that has been through secondary treatment. While solids are removed, the water is not disinfected. In January this year, the Clean Water Branch and University of Hawaii began gathering monthly water samples to test for contamination. So far, testing has indicated that wastewater injected into the wells is finding its way to the ocean.
Across the U.S., the NRDC found that our nation's beaches continue to experience significant water pollution putting the health of beachgoers and swimmers at risk.
In 2011, the number of beach closing and advisory days reached the third-highest level in the 22-year history of its report. More than two-thirds of those advisories were issued because bacteria levels exceeded public health standards.
There's a list of 5-star beaches as well, but no Hawaii beaches made that list.
To see the full report for Hawaii, go to www.nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/hi.asp. This year, NRDC offers a search tool where you can enter an address, zip code and state to find reports on beaches near you.