SCATTING TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER: A few weeks back we got disgusted enough to pass on that retching sound to our readers regarding the entro-bacterial levels in the ocean on the North Shore of Kaua`i, specifically Hanalei Bay. Seems that, as we wrote then,
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) 22nd annual beach water quality report on the cleanest beaches in America- as reported in today's pay-walled Honolulu Star Advertiser-
"Out of the country's 200 most popular beaches, no Hawaii beach earned the council's 5-star rating, which 12 beaches received."
We went on to make the point that many, notably the Surfrider Foundation of Kaua`i, have generally been calling bullsh*t on the contention that the source was, well, bull sh*t.
While Deputy Director of the State Health Department's environmental health division Gary Gill is quoted as saying "it's not an indication of sewage pollution," Surfrider Kaua`i- which has been doing its own testing- has said that the exceedingly high levels are primarily due to human excrement from the plethora of cesspools that still quasi-legally exist in Hanalei, especially those hooked into "illegal" transient vacation rentals (check out our original post for why illegal is in quotes).
But the original article was actually trying to make a different point than the one we picked up on. The second paragraph read:
On the other end of the scale, no Hawaii beach made the list of 15 "repeat offenders" for storm water runoff and sewage pollution that sicken people and harm coastal economies, the council said.
It went on to say:
The Hawaii percentage was up from 3 percent in 2009 and again in 2010, but down from the 9 percent measured in 2007, the council said.
Kauai County beaches had the highest "exceedance rate" — percent of beach water samples exceeding state standards in 2011 — at 9 percent, followed by Hawaii County (4 percent), City and County of Honolulu (2 percent) and Maui County (2 percent).
Really? It seems to be saying it's getting better... cleaner... less, uh, full of crap.
Well maybe not. According to marine biologist and head of the Kauai Surfrider Foundation Dr. Carl Berg it's not because it's any cleaner it's simply because the entity that's actually fullest of crap is the DOH which has simply stopped testing as often.
In an email Dr. Berg told us:
One way to get really bad beaches off the list of year-after-year high exceedance? Just stop sampling them! Then they don't show up on the list. Take for example, Hanama`ulu Beach Park which was tied for 10th place in the nation for greatest percent of the time in exceedance. What happened?.. no more sampling, so no data, so off the list. It is now being re-sampled periodically.
The reason Hawai`i beaches are not in the NRDC 5 star category is the fact that DOH does not meet some of the criteria.
NRDC says "Criteria include testing more than once a week (They do that), notifying the public promptly when tests reveal bacteria levels violating health standards (nope), and posting closings and advisories both online and at the beach (nope). Hopefully we will determine if the high bacteria counts are coming from human or animal feces this summer. If human feces, then Surfrider will be screaming to have a lot more Kauai beaches and streams posted with signs like the ones that were up at Nawiliwili Stream after the sewage spill.
We have a feeling that the Hawai`i Visitors' Bureau is just fine with the way DOH is doing its work. To complete Dr. Berg's thought "no more sampling, so no data, so off the list," so... instead of the headlines on the mainland screaming "Come to Hanalei and take a Dip in Sh*t" it reads "Hanalei: Jump Right In, Dipsh*t- The Water's Fine.
When the choices are "lies, damnable lies and statistics" it's easy to confuse the shibai and the kukai. But if you simply don't look for any of the three you don't have to fudge anything.