HONOLULU(KHON2) — The city said beaches are safe to swim along the Ewa coastline after the health department warned of high levels of fecal bacteria discharged from the wastewater treatment plant two days ago.
Warning signs were posted Saturday at White Plains Beach alerting beachgoers about high levels of enterococcus bacteria, a type of fecal bacteria, in the ocean.
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According to the Department of Environmental Services, the Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment center found bacteria counts to be over the limit in treated wastewater being discharged about a mile off the Ewa coastline.
Kapolei resident Chris Curran said the warning signs are concerning.
“We had planned for a nice day out at the beach here with the family and just got here kind of surprised we saw the warning,” said Curran.
Honolulu resident Eric Schrager showed up at White Plains Beach hoping to catch some waves and thinks the city could have done a little more to protect the public.
“Maybe a little bigger sign,” Schrager said. “How about close the beach.”
But not everyone was deterred by the warning signs.
“There’s a lot of people out here, a lot of people putting their kids in the water,” said Honolulu resident Rich Charest who decided to just relax on the beach. “I mean that’s a risk they’re taking. We’re not taking that risk.”
Ewa resident Daniel Ignacio and his kids hopped back in their truck and decided to hit a different beach.
“I was just tripping out how other people weren’t even making one move or getting out,” Ignacio said. “We’re not going to take the chance.”
According to the city, the treatment center discharges roughly 25 million gallons of treated wastewater a day, pumping it out 365 days of the year.
They test the water as it’s discharged on a daily basis.
“Our Thursday, sample for our effluent, which is what goes out into the ocean, was in exceedance, for one parameter for bacteria parameter,” Department of Environmental Services Roger Babcock explained. “The sample from the next day, (Friday), came back as normal.”
Babcock said they treated the water just like they normally do.
“We didn’t notice anything unusual or different. We’re not sure what happened,” said Babcock.
Babcock added that they are looking into it.
He said they are required to post warning signs until the health department gives them the all-clear. He thinks the beaches are safe.
“Yes, I’m quite sure that it’s safe, and I would be happy to swim there,” said Babcock.
Babcock admitted this isn’t the first time it’s happened.
The court found the city liable for over 9,870 violations of the Federal Water Pollution Act in the early 1990s.
The city was forced to pay more than $718,000 in penalties.
Senator Kurt Fevella (D) said the fact that it’s still happening is unacceptable.
“None of them live here. None of them fish here. None of them swim here. None of them eat here,” said Fevella, frustrated about the issue. “Even if they change the thing — even if they change the warning right now, what about the residual effects to our reef? Our sand? Are they going to come and test the sand?”
Fevella said he wants the state to investigate the treatment center to ensure they are doing things correctly.
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According to Babcock, upgrades are being made to the facility and should be completed by the end of 2024.