Only 3 percent of shoreline samples exceeded health standards last year
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 30, 2011
A report indicating that Hawaii beachgoers swam in some of the nation's cleanest ocean water last year brings bragging rights for residents and the tourism industry.
Hawaii had the fourth cleanest beach water of 30 coastal states surveyed in the 21st annual beach water quality report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Only 3 percent of Hawaii's water samples exceeded health standards in 2010, the environmental group said.
"Clean beach water is not only good for public health, it supports healthy coastal economies that generate billions of dollars and support millions of American jobs," said David Beckman, director of the NRDC Water Program."
Mike McCartney, Hawaii Tourism Authority president and chief executive, characterized Hawaii's ranking as "priceless," especially as the visitor industry heads deeper into summer.
"It's good news for Hawaii and it's good news for the visitor industry," McCartney said. "It will enhance the momentum that we want to continue in the market."
Water quality ratings in the NRDC's report, which analyzes government data on beach water testing results, varied by island and beach. While only 1 percent of Oahu's samples exceeded health standards, rates were 2 percent for Maui and Hawaii and 8 percent for Kauai.
The report singled out three Kauai beaches as having water samples that exceeded state standards. They were Lumahai Beach with 29 percent of samples, Kalihiwai Bay, 27 percent, and Waimea Recreation Pier State Park, 24 percent.
"All three of these beaches are near rivers and sometimes get runoff," said Sue Kanoho, director of the Kauai Visitors and Convention Bureau. "The good news is that we have not had any complaints about people going into these waters and getting sick and the (state) Department of Health has not cited any problems."
Other Kauai beaches such as Anahola, Poipu and Brennecke received good reports, Kanoho said.
Hanauma Bay and Kuhio Beach near the Royal Hawaiian and the Westin Moana Surfrider were among examples of Oahu's cleanest beaches.
Settling ponds help divert runoff and keep Hanauma Bay clear, said Alan Hong, who was its longtime property manager before retiring on June 1.
"These ponds catch the parking area and lawn runoff and filter out silt and trap chemicals," Hong said.
Ahmed Maqbool of Fremont, Calif., who was playing in the ocean near Waikiki on Wednesday, said Hawaii's clean beaches are a strong selling point.
"For me, this beach is much cleaner than others," Maqbool said. "San Francisco is a beautiful city, but some of its beaches are dirty and you wouldn't want to swim there."
California beaches were the 22nd worst for pollution standards among coastal states, the NRDC report said.
Beckman said he uses the report to make decisions about where to swim with his family and that the public should, too.
"Water quality matters," he said. "You don't want to go swimming and end up with a rash or something worse."