Kualoa Beach closed for weekend
State concern over high bacterial counts prompt the decision
The beach at Kualoa Regional Park was closed yesterday and will remain closed through the holiday weekend due to high bacterial counts in the nearshore water.
Water quality data gathered by the state Department of Health Clean Water Branch at Kualoa Beach Park show that bacteria levels have exceeded Hawaii's standard and the national standard.
Warning signs were posted yesterday.
"We realize that this will inconvenience the public during the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, but our intentions are to protect the public from possible illnesses," said Watson Okubo, Clean Water Branch monitoring and analysis section chief.
"We've been watching since November, and the numbers have been creeping up," Okubo said.
The current enterococcus bacteria level over a series of water tests yields a geometric mean at Kualoa of 57 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of water. The Hawaii geometric mean standard is 7, and the national standard is 35.
The lower the number, the fewer bacteria are in the water. Seven is the threshold number for concern, and higher numbers mean an increased chance of people getting sick from going into the water, Clean Water Branch workers have explained in the past.
Kualoa Beach was closed because of high bacterial levels from Dec. 3, 2005, until Memorial Day weekend. The Health Department said last year that it suspected outdated cesspools serving the parks' three restrooms caused the problem.
But the city, which operates the park, never conceded the cause, said city spokesman Bill Brennan.
"We're not certain, but we're always going to suspect the restroom," Okubo said.
Brennan said recent rains could have had something to do with it.
For more than a year, the city has closed one restroom at the park and has used pumper trucks to remove waste from the other two cesspools several times a week, Brennan said. The city also reduced the number of campsites allowed at the park to 22 from 36, he said.
Brennan said yesterday that the city has not changed its procedures.
Last year, the city said a permanent replacement for the cesspools would cost $1.3 million and take two years to design and build. The work will take extra time because of concerns that the work not disturb burials in the area.