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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sand clean at four sites, test finds

 •  Sewer repairs could top $50 million

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

Healthy Hawai'i Coalition found sand at Kailua Beach to have "high" bacteria levels, but state officials say the finding is irrelevant.

ADVERTISER LIBRARY PHOTO | April 11, 2006

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WAIKIKI Sand test results show that bacteria levels on some Waikiki beaches are within acceptable levels for bacteria in the water, but the state health director says the independent analysis is irrelevant.

Healthy Hawai'i Coalition hired a private testing company to analyze the sand at five O'ahu locations for the sewage indicator bacteria enterococci and Clostridium perfringens.

Tests were done at two Waikiki sites and Ala Moana, Makaha and Kailua beaches.

There is no standard for these bacteria in sand.

"I was personally surprised with the results from Waikiki," said Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, vice president of the coalition.

"We are concerned about the high levels at Kailua."

The levels were low for the enterococci at four of the five sites sampled. In Kailua the number was 24 for enterococci and 60 for Clostridium. Acceptable state levels in water are 7 for enterococci and 5 for Clostridium.

Tamayo said the tests were worthwhile because they offer the public knowledge that people can use to make decisions about going to the beach.

Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the state Department of Health, said that with no established standard for bacteria in sand she couldn't draw any conclusion about the independent analysis.

"The department really does stand by its previous position, and that is, all of the data that we have to date indicates that the beaches are as safe now as they were before the sewage spill," she said.

The high numbers at Kailua Beach could be a result of bacteria that has been around for months, she said. Clostridium spores can live up to a year in soil, Fukino said.

The Legislature is considering a resolution calling for the testing of sand when there are sewage spills. Fukino said for those tests to have any validity, the state would have to conduct an extensive study relating the levels of bacteria to the incidents of illness. Such a test would be costly and could take years, she said, adding that she hopes the Legislature would include funding if it passes the resolution.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.