High enterococci levels prompt advisory for waters near Niumalu Beach

  • Niumalu Beach is seen on the left side of this image of Kailua Bay taken amid an algae bloom in late May. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

Health officials Thursday afternoon issued a second 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 Niumalu Beach area, the Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch reported. The beach is located north of Hulihee Palace in Kailua Village.

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Levels of 1,445 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.

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.

On Wednesday, the department issued a high bacteria count advisory for waters off Kamakahonu Beach. That advisory remains posted.

Janice Okubo, DOH spokeswoman, said the person collecting the sample on Tuesday noted heavy wave action at the time of collection, which could have resuspended enterococci from the sand above the normal high water mark. Staff collected another sample on Thursday with results expected this morning.

“Our staff believes both (exceedances) are due to the high surf in the area. There is a high surf advisory currently posted for all south facing shores of all islands,” she said.

Okubo added that Hawaii County has checked its sewer line and hasn’t detected any leaks in its system.

Okubo also provided an update on the apparent algae bloom in Kailua Bay that resulted in discoloration of the water, but no advisory.

“We do not believe that the bloom has anything to do with the high counts. Our field staff has confirmed that this occurs about every year at this time, but this year the bloom was observed to be concentrated in a smaller area near shore and appears to be a darker shade of green than normal,” she said.

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Most years, the bloom is diffused throughout the Kailua Bay.

“Our field staff has observed the bloom dissipating and appears to be moving out of the bay. Our field staff has noted that a bloom may be occurring or about to occur off Keauhou Bay (also an annual event). Other areas where blooms have been observed include Hapuna Beach, Mauna Kea Beach, and Keauhou Bay,” Okubo said.

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