Test sees if good waves break with good water
A specially equipped surfboard will check areas "people play in" for contaminants
The state Department of Health plans to start testing water quality at Waikiki surf spots this month with a specially outfitted surfboard.
The 11-foot board will have a custom rack to hold monitoring equipment and bottles so that department employee and surfer Josh Marvit can use it to collect water samples in the surf zone, according to state health officials.
For years the department has been testing water quality at wading depth near the beach several times a week and beyond the surf zone from boats less frequently.
In the wake of a March 2006 spill of 48 million gallons of sewage into the Ala Wai Canal and subsequent closure of Waikiki beaches, the state started posting that water quality information online at emdweb.doh.hawaii.gov/CleanWaterBranch/CurrentWarnings.
Testing in the surf zone will provide surfers a more accurate sense of water quality in the zone where they spend the most time, said Marvin Heskett, co-chairman of the Surfrider Foundation's Oahu chapter.
"We're extremely pleased," Heskett said. "We've been working with the state a long time to try and incorporate the surf zone" into areas that are tested for water quality.
The new surfboard-mounted sampling will start on the South Shore, since that is where summer swells are. Data gathered will be posted online and used in a study being done in cooperation with the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine and the Surfrider Foundation Oahu Chapter.
"Hawaii's ocean water quality is usually good, and this new tool will help us learn more about the quality of water people play in," Watson Okubo, monitoring and analysis chief for the department's Clean Water Branch, said Friday in a news release.
The ocean can be polluted by runoff from streams and storm drains, and from sewage spills, Okubo said. If indicator bacteria levels are high, people in the water have a greater risk of getting gastrointestinal sicknesses such as diarrhea, he said.