Check out the video of Christina collecting a water sample and explaining why having current water quality information is so imortant to beachgoers.
Surfrider's Oahu Chapter operates it's Blue Water Task program with the goal of protecting public health at the beach. Unfortunately, a number of sources fo pollution affects coastal waterways including cesspools, stormwater runoff, and pollution from agricultural sources. Please read the blog below written by Christina Comfort that explains the Oahu Blue Water Task Force program.
The Hawaii Department of Health monitors beaches on Oahu for bacterial indicators of fecal pollution, but they cannot cover every public beach or coastal access site. To help meet this public health need, the Oahu Chapter has re-launched our Blue Water Task Force water testing program to extend the coverage of monitoring efforts with citizen science. Basically we are helping to provide water quality information at more beaches, more often, so beachgoers and those who love to swim, surf, paddle and play in the water have the information they need to avoid getting sick.
The Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) is the Surfrider Foundation’s volunteer water testing program. BWTF volunteers measure fecal indicator bacteria in beach and coastal waters, which if present, can indicate infective agents in the fecal pollution that make people sick. In our new Oahu program, volunteers sample beach and coastal recreational waters at approximately a dozen locations including beaches in Honolulu, on the windward side, and on the north shore. Many (though not all) of the sites are from areas where there is a high concentration of cesspools in the nearby neighborhoods.
After collecting water, we take the samples to a lab at Hawaii Pacific University in Kane’ohe, where we test each sample for the presence of the fecal indicator bacteria, Enterococcus. We feed any bacteria in the water with a specialized nutrient mixture, or reagant, and let the samples incubate overnight. If Enterococcus is present in the water sample, they will multiply and interact with the reagant and give off a UV signal. After a 24 hour incubation period, we identify how many bacteria were in the original sample based on counts under a UV light. The bacterial counts for each beach are available the day after samples are collected, and the results are posted to the BWTF website. See the beaches we are sampling and all our results here.
While some beaches have been testing clean, some sites have shown concerning results. The stream outflows at Kahalu’u (Kane’ohe, HI) and Anahola stream (Haleiwa, HI) have consistently had bacterial counts well above the Hawaii beach advisory threshold meant to protect public health. Other sites such as Waimanalo Bay Beach, Aina Haina, and Pua’ena point have tested high as well.
As our program develops and we continue to test, we’ll be able to make better scientific judgments about the influence of tides, rainfall, and other environmental conditions on the presence and amount of fecal indicator bacteria at the beaches we are monitoring. Our plan is to expand the Oahu BWTF program to cover approximately 20 sites and to increase our sampling frequency to weekly testing.
If you’re located on Oahu, get involved with the Surfrider Oahu’s Blue Water Task Force by following us on Facebook and come to a monthly meetings – First Wednesdays of the month at 6:30 PM!