The public is being advised to avoid the waters of Kailua Bay after the Marine Corps Water Treatment Facility released sewage containing high levels of fecal bacteria into the ocean.
The discharge was reported to the state Department of Health on Tuesday. The Marine Corps identified “ongoing maintenance activity in the plant’s polishing pond” as the cause of the incident, according to a news release.
Alec Wong, a representative of the DOH Clean Water Branch, said in a statement Thursday that the state will investigate the cause and “take action accordingly.”
“While not having the same level of threat as discharging sewage directly into the ocean, the discharge of sewage that does not meet permitted effluent limits is prohibited,” he said. he declares. “The DOH considers this type of effluent exceedance to be unacceptable, especially since Marine Corps Base Hawaii has reported similar effluents in recent months.”
The Marine Corps issued a press release on Wednesday reporting an “overflow” of enterococci, an indicator of human fecal contamination, from its water reclamation facility.
The military did not provide further details about how the crash happened, and Navy spokesman Capt. Eric Abrams was unable to explain Thursday after -midday.
The military is allowed a maximum daily discharge limit of 57,850 colony forming units, or CFU, per milliliter, but disallowed at around 70,000 CFU per milliliter. The facility discharges an average of 2.7 million gallons per day, according to the Hawaii Department of Health.
Warning signs have been posted and the public should avoid the waters near the Mokapu outfall until the signs are removed, the DOH said.
⚠️The public is advised to avoid waters near the ocean outfall of the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Water Reclamation Facility due to discharge that exceeds allowable levels of indicator bacteria faeces. #Wastewater
Details: https://t.co/v6dlUDAxXP pic.twitter.com/kpa6Qdm9fe
— Hawaii State Department of Health (@HawaiiDOH) February 11, 2022
In the press release, the Marines said the maintenance work is “necessary to ensure that (the water reclamation facility) continues to operate effectively.”
“Honestly, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise that there was an overrun there due to maintenance that was going on at the time,” Abrams said.
This isn’t the first time the Marine Corps has reported an exceedance of fecal bacteria in Kailua. Exceedances were reported last year, in August and October.
The ‘good news’, according to Abrams, is that Marine Corps effluent is combined with treated water from the city’s Kailua Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the military’s share is only 10% of the total. .
“So just because we were finished doesn’t mean the amount unloaded ended up being finished,” Abrams said.
The combined sewage is discharged about two miles offshore from the Marine Corps base 110 feet below the ocean surface.
According to the Marine Corps, the direct risk of exposure to people in the water is “extremely low”.
The Marine Corps said “disruptive activities are over” and it is sampling daily to monitor the situation until levels return to normal.
Hawaii’s military management of the environment has been criticized for years and intensified recently amid Navy fuel contamination of its drinking water supply in the Pearl Harbor area.
“We take our responsibility to protect the environment absolutely seriously,” Abrams said. “Things like this will happen, but luckily there’s really no danger to the community from this type of overshoot.”