High enterococci levels prompt advisory for waters near Kailua Pier

Health officials Wednesday afternoon issued a high bacteria count advisory for waters in Kailua Bay.

The advisory was issued due to high levels of enterococci found in a sampling of ocean water from the north side of Kailua Pier off Kamakahonu Beach, the Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch reported Wednesday.

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Levels of 164 per 100 mL were detected during routine beach monitoring. The EPA sets the threshold for enterococci at 130 enterococci per 100 mL.

“The advisory for this beach is posted because testing for enterococci indicate that potentially harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, or parasites may be present in the water. Swimming at beaches with pollution in the water may make you ill,” the advisory reads.

Signage has been posted and the advisory will remain in effect until water sample results no longer exceed the threshold level of 130 enterococci per 100 mL, according to the department.

Enterococci are indicators of the presence of fecal material in water and, therefore, of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, according to the EPA.

Children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely populations to develop illnesses or infections after coming into contact with polluted water, usually while swimming, according to the department. The most common illness associated with swimming in water polluted by fecal pathogens is gastroenteritis. In highly polluted water, swimmers may occasionally be exposed to more serious diseases.

Last week, West Hawaii Today reported about an algae bloom discoloring Kailua Bay, which had not resulted in levels exceeding EPA thresholds for nearshore waters. The algae bloom was on the south side of the pier and did not prompt a water quality advisory.

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DOH staff in Kona who went to check on the issue relayed that the problem seems to occur each spring in the offshore waters.

Okubo did not immediately respond to an inquiry from the newspaper on whether the suspected algae bloom was related to Wednesday’s advisory.

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