Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Saturday, February 27, 1999

City’s new interest
in Mamala Bay will
make a difference

ALONG with the thousands of other people who enjoy ocean recreation in Mamala Bay, I was excited to learn that Honolulu city officials have begun to take an active part in determining how much pollution is flowing into our maritime playground and how it is getting there.

The city was, shall we say, encouraged to take this pro-active stance as a part of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's permitting process for Honolulu's two wastewater treatment plants.

Nevertheless, even if the city's efforts are not exactly self-motivated, I am sure any positive results will be unanimously welcomed by ocean users from Barbers Point to Diamond Head.

Initially, the city is looking for help in monitoring the pollution problem throughout Mamala Bay's total watershed area to ascertain signs of improvement or deterioration in water runoff quality.

"In attempting not to reinvent the wheel," Alex Ho, of the city's Department of Environmental Services told me, "we have asked those agencies who already do routine shoreline water monitoring to help us by providing us data we would otherwise need to gather on our own."

Some of those sources are the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Geological Survey, petroleum companies, the state Health Department, and the University of Hawaii.

AS the city learned through an earlier study, non-point source pollution -- particularly chemical and biological contaminants that wash into our waterways from the community at large -- is our most insidious pollution problem.

When there is a single large source of pollution, such as a sewer break, it is comparatively easy to identify and repair. However, when the pollution comes from thousands of small sources -- the petroleum products, insecticides, weed killers and fertilizers we all use, and occasionally misuse -- correcting the problem becomes much more complicated.

As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

It is, in fact, one of the reasons why citizens in one sector of the Mamala Bay watershed recently established, with federal EPA financial assistance, the Ala Wai Canal Watershed Improvement Project.

AFTER agreeing to a common goal of "coming together to care for the water that flows from the mountains to the sea," they have attempted to identify problems and find their solutions within a traditional Hawaiian ahupua'a, or interdependent community.

After subdividing into a dozen sub-watersheds, this community-based effort for pollution control is now implementing 16 projects it hopes will reduce the contamination of the Ala Wai Canal and the offshore waters into which it flows. Among them are:

bullet Stream and bank restoration and stabilization.
bullet Trash dumping mitigation.
bullet Taro loi construction to reduce erosion.
bullet Water quality testing.
bullet Wetland restoration.
bullet Canal-bank restoration.
bullet Youth educational outreach coordination.

Perhaps now, with the city's added interest, we will begin to see additional grassroots pollution control projects for Mamala Bay.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached by
e-mail at raypen@compuserve.com.

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