Kapoho Bay

Kapoho Bay, Big Island of Hawaii

“This sounds like a failed septic-leachfield that needs immediate resolve!”

L. R., Hawaii Environmental Engineer

Photos reveal coral habitat in extreme danger. Visible growth of algae covering corals in Kapoho bay as a result of sewage leaking from the town of Kapoho.



The Earth Harmony Foundation is working to alert all public officials in the state of Hawaii, that is the EPA, Federal, County, and State, that sewage is leaking from a failed spetic-leachfield directly into Kapoho Bay, which was declared a Marine Life Conservation District by the Governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle.
This area receives extreme high tides, creating pools in the 177 homes that line the shore, and many of these septic systems leak directly into the ocean. “Another interesting point from this graduate student interviewee was that one of his friends at UH Hilo had done a tracer study where they flushed a chemical down a toilet and monitored the time it took for the chemical to appear in the tidepools. They found this transfer occurred in 5 mins.” J. T., MIT Microbiologist

This article is from the Honohono Publication.

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2007, Volume 5, Number 1

Coral Health and Water Quality Evaluations at Waiopae Tide Pools, Kapoho, Big Island of Hawaii

Cheresa Coles
The Waiopae tide pools contain several reef communities that have recently been designated as a Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD). Patches of coral are scattered throughout the A’a and Pa’hoe’hoe lava substrate that make up this unique ecosystem. A continuously and rapidly expanding community is being built around the tide pools. All of the dwellings have cesspools or septic systems. These sewage systems allow raw residential sewage to leak directly into the underground water table that flows into the tide pools. As a consequence, excess nutrients are leached into the coral communities that live in the Waiopae tide pools. Coral ecosystems are easily affected by inputs of nutrients that can change the conditions of the marine environment needed for survival. Field experiments were conducted in Kapoho, Hawai’i, USA, (latitude: 19.5195, Longitude: -154.8135) to determine the amount of bacteria in several locations of the MLCD, as well as in areas outside of the MLCD. A total of eight locations were monitored weekly over an eight month period. Bacterial levels were quantified using the fecal indicator bacteria Escherichia coli and Enterobacter aerogenes by using Coliscan® tests. It was found that the Waiopae tide pool ecosystem contained levels of the fecal indicator bacteria E.coli and total bacteria coliforms in excessive levels according to EPA and state guidelines. Due to the excess nutrients and sewage inputs into the Waiopae tide pools, the coral communities in the tide pools may be at great risks from these anthropogenic stresses.

Coral ecosystems in the Waiopae tide pools consist of many marine species. Corals are a keystone species that defines an ecosystem and provides its basic three-dimensional structure (Birkeland, 2004). The phylum Cnidaria consists of many orders of coral. The stony corals are in phylum Cnidaria, class Anthozoa, subclass Hexacorrallia, and order Scleractinia. These corals have anemone like polyps that secrete calcium carbonate skeletons and live in benthic colonies. Corals can reproduce both sexually and asexually. In Hawai’i, there are about 50 species of shallow-water corals in 17 genera (Hoover, 1998). In the Waiopae tide pools there are about five dominate species of coral.

Corals are sessile benthic animals. This organism’s survival is completely dependent on the quality of their environment. Scientific evidence has indicated that coral reefs are deteriorating rapidly around the world (NOAA, 2005). Some causes of the coral’s deterioration are pollution, natural weather patterns, global warming and trampling by observers. The increasing threats to coral, coincides with an expanding population along the coastlines around the world. Although, reefs have been degraded by human activities, evidence shows that they will recover, provided remedial measures are implemented on land to restore water and substrate conditions (Wolanski et al., 2004). Reefs are especially important to protect because they contribute to our world economy by providing food, tourism, jobs, recreation and protection from storms and tidal surges (Cesar et al. 2004).

Steady environmental conditions must exist for coral communities to develop and survive. These necessary stable conditions are: water movement, water temperature, and clear water. Wave action provides the water movement that is necessary to supply the corals with oxygen and prevents sediments from collecting on them, since they are sessile organisms. This is a process that is controlled by natural ocean currents and the geomorphology of the coral reef (Smith, 2004). Some scientists have suggested that exposure to severe wave action may limit coral development and abundance (Maragos, et al. 2004). Waves naturally keep the surrounding water clean and circulated.

Corals need a constant water temperature that is approximately 31º C for optimal health. Some researchers have suggested that temperature extremes may contribute to decline of coral species and abundance (Maragos, et al. 2004). In lagoons and tide pools like the Waiopae tide pools, water temperatures may also fluctuate with tidal variation and weather. Corals need to have clear water so the symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae, located within their cells, can photosynthesize. Most reefs have developed in areas where the water quality is adequate for their survival. If the surrounding water is affected by nutrient run off it has the potential to cause and algal bloom. An algal bloom will cause the ocean water to have an opaque or cloudy appearance. This is detrimental to coral which need clear water. In turn, eutrophication of the coral reef may occur after an algal bloom.

The Waiopae tide pools are located on the island of Hawai’i’s east coast. Part of this unique marine area was established as a Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD) in 2003 (DLNR, 2004), and the other part was left as an unrestricted public use area. In the MLCD zone of the tide pools no commercial activities, fishing, or aquarium collection is allowed.

The Waiopae tide pools are situated in a distinctive area of the eastern coastline on the Big Island of Hawai’i. This area of the coastline was created by the 1950’s lava flow and consists of several tide pools that vary in size and depth. The tide pools are connected to the underground water table and are a mix of fresh and marine water.

Furthermore, the tide pools are surrounded by a rapidly expanding residential community and all of the dwellings are on cesspool or septic systems. The naturally occurring water table is close to the surface throughout the community that surrounds the tide pools. Therefore, when a large hole or cesspool is dug, water fills the hole. A septic system is a cement or plastic tub that is placed into the hole; this type of septic system holds solid material but allows liquid to be released into the surroundings. Both of these sewage disposal systems allow for raw sewage to be released into the Waiopae tide pools. Raw sewage that is released into the tide pools will eventually be dispersed throughout the entire tide pool ecosystem.

There are two guidelines or standards that are commonly used in the U.S. to determine recreational water quality are: the fecal limit of 100 E. coli colony forming units (CFU)/100mL and a total coliform limit of 1000 CFU/100mL ( Cabelli et al., 1983). The U.S. EPA acknowledges that Escherichia coli, the most commonly used a fecal indicator bacteria, is the best indicator of potential health risks to humans (EPA website, 2005). It has been well documented that E. coli cannot survive for long in marine ecosystems after it’s introduction; therefore, most e. coli that is found in the marine environment comes from a recent source ( Perez-Rosas and Hazen, 1987). One study has determined that exposure to solar radiation completely eliminated all E. coli in their water sample after two days and E. aerogenes still remained after three days (McCambridge and McMeekin, 1981). Total coliforms alone are not adequate as a health risk indicator because there can be many contributors, like other warm blooded animals (Cabelli et al., 1983). The above guidelines were mandated because it has been estimated that when the bacteria limits are exceeded that approximately 8 per 1,000 individuals may experience some type of gastrointestinal illness, flu like symptoms, or respiratory irritations (Francy et al., year ).

In this water quality assessment of Waiopae tide pools it is expected that the tide pools close to shore will have higher levels of fecal indicator bacteria than the tide pools farther away from shore. Due to the development of the shoreline it is predicted to see high quantities of both E. coli and total coliforms in the marine waters. By determining the amount of fecal indicator bacteria in the tide pools, we can assume the coral communities may be experiencing anthropogenic stresses due to excess nutrient influxes from residential sewage.

Materials and Methods
Field experiments were conducted in Kapoho, Hawai’i located on the Big Islands east coast, USA (latitude: 19.5195, Longitude: -154.8135), shown below.

Water samples were collected weekly from eight locations throughout the Waiopae tide pools during a variety of recorded tidal and weather conditions. Samples were collected in sterile bottles and analyzed within one hour of collection. The eight tide pool locations were chosen haphazardly for this analysis. Every one of the tide pools were similar in size and depth. All of the locations were within the MLCD except for one location which was located in the non-MLCD zone. The salinity of the water samples was determined using a refractometer. The water samples were analyzed for bacteria using Coliscan® tests. The Coliscan® method of bacteria analysis allowed Escherichia coli and Enterobacter aerogenes bacteria to be identified by color and easily quantified in units of colony forming units per 100 milliliters (CFU/100mL).

For each analysis, 2mL of the water sample was mixed with the Coliscan® easy gel media and placed in a pre-treated Coliscan® Petri dish. In addition, a replicate Petri dish was also prepared for each water sample using a 4mL of the water sample mixed to the easy gel.

The Petri dishes were incubated at room temperature 30-37ºC for 48 hours. The E.coli turned a dark blue color colonies and the total coliforms formed red colonies. Next, E. coli colonies were quantified and then recorded in CFU/100mL. Total bacteria coliforms were calculated using the total of red and blue colonies in the Petri dish and then recorded as CFU per 100ml. This process was conducted over eight months for all eight tide pool monitoring sites.

Four out of the eight tide pools were chosen for monitoring saturation percent of dissolved oxygen and temperature. To collect this data a YSI meter was used and these tide pools were monitored weekly for 3 months.

Please contact to ask for immediate attention:

EPA Groundwater Division, San Fransisco Albright.David@epamail.epa.gov

Congresswoman Mazie – HironoAnne.Stewart@mail.house.gov

Emily N., Cunty of Hawaii – rhampton@co.hawaii.hi.us

Rep Hanohano – rephanohano@Capitol.hawaii.gov

JM Cousteau – jmcousteau@oceanfutures.org

Mayor Kenoiw – kenoi@co.hawaii.hi.us

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