H2O - Healthy Hawaiian Oceans

“Malama o kekai, kekai o ke malama”

Take care of the sea, and the sea will take care of you

Post Office Box 895

Honaunau, Hawai`i 96726


Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Sump has got to go

Hawai‘i County Municipal Wastewater is the Single Largest Source of Ocean Pollutants on the Kona Coast:  The Factual Evidence.
February 1, 2020
R. H. Bennett M.S., Ph.D.*
Applied Life Sciences LLC

The Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant (KWWTP) discharges approximately 1.8 million gallons of nutrient-rich, partially-disinfected wastewater to a sump near Honokohau Harbor each day, and consistently, for almost 25 years.  The Wastewater Discharge Sump (WDS), according to the Department of Health documents was a temporary facility pending the completion of the water reuse irrigation project funded by the EPA in the early 1990ʻs.  The reuse project never materialized despite the EPA funding and contract.   The site of the WDS is about 0.3 miles North of the Kealakehe Police Station and 0.1 of a mile East of Queen Ka‘ahumanu Hwy. The elevation there is 80 feet.  The piped water drains into a hole, at the sump site. It instantaneously(rapidly or immediately might be better, instantaneously means in a second drains through the fractured lava and to the brackish groundwater below. The wastewater flows into the sea with the groundwater.   At the wall on the East end of Honokohau Harbor, about 3.16 million gallons of brackish groundwater and wastewater flows daily into the harbor and then out to sea. (Peterson 2009).

The urban wastewater contains many pollutants of concern; key among these are the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus.  In all oligotrophic (low nutrient) tropical waters, the addition of wastewater nutrients is detrimental to the long-term vitality of the nearshore ecosystems.  Neither the county nor the State regulates or monitors the nutrients disposed at the WDS. On occasion, consultants have determined documented the nutrient concentrations at the WDS.  Based on WDS data provided by Brown and Caldwell [1], they estimate annual disposal of nitrogen at 320 thousand pounds per year, and for phosphorus 36 thousand pounds per year.  This nutrient load is the rough equivalent of thousands of bags of fertilizer dumped into the nearshore waters each year.  Over the 27-year sump use period, 8.64 million pounds of nitrogen contaminated the Class AA Pristine waters of the Kona Coast.
By many orders of magnitude, the County of Hawai‘i is the largest single source polluter of our ocean.   Had this discharge begun through a pipeline, it would have been deemed unlawful at the time. Yet somehow, we are to believe that dumping the water into a tidally influenced anchialine or subterranean estuary[2] is lawful.

Department of Health Policy: Discharges to Groundwater Not Subject to Federal Regulations

Official Hawai‘i Department of Health correspondence states that the brackish groundwater near the WDS, by policy is waters of the State and not subject to the US Clean Water Act[3]. 
“Discharges to groundwater are not subject to NPDES requirements.  If there is a hydrological connection to nearby surface water, the DOH may require the discharges to apply for an NPDES permit.  As a matter of policy, DOH has chosen to have all underground injection discharges regulated under our UIC program and not under the NPDES permit program.”
It is for this policy decision the nutrients disposed of in the DWS are not regulated. There is no record of the DOH ever requiring an NPDES permit for any underground discharge, even though hydrologic connections to the sea are very well known in Hawai‘i.  The "sump" at Kealakehe has never been issued a permit from the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program.  Nor does it have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

Groundwater in West Hawai‘i is a Subterranean Estuary

 Science and  Common sense and science recognize virtually all groundwater not contained in upper elevation dikes is hydrologically connected to the nearshore Hawai‘ian waters of the United States. Groundwater and any wastewater it may contain flows by gravity along paths of least resistance to the sea[4].
  As such, the Clean Water Act provisions apply, including the permit requirement.

The EPA states, The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters unless a permit was obtained. EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls discharges. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or constructed ditches. Individual homes that are connected to a municipal system, use a septic system, or do not have a surface discharge do not need an NPDES permit; however, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters[5].  Courts have ruled that wastewater discharged to groundwater that flows to the sea by? discrete conveyances is a direct discharge[6].  This issue is now before the Supreme Court, and a decision is due in the Summer of 2020.

The Director of the Hawai‘i Department of Health declared at a West Hawai‘i forum that there is no evidence to show that this waste discharge is flowing into the sea and harmful[7].  This statement has two fundamental problems.   The CWA does not require proof of harm.  It requires an NPDES permit if pollutants are discharged. Secondly, the statement employs a fallacy called Negative Proof. The absence of evidence to prove harm is NOT proof of the absence of harm.  Also, until such flows are measured and documented, there will be no evidence. Such statements do not serve the "public interest."  The State Constitution requires that state policy on resources serve the public interest.

The following chronology of scientific reports reveals overwhelming and conclusive evidence of pollutant discharge to waters of the United States from the WDS.  To our knowledge, there are no scientific journal reports demonstrating where that groundwater fails to migrate to the sea on any island system in the world.

The  data abundantly shows that the Class AA Waters of the State are degraded, contrary to statute[8] and contrary to the Federal Clean Water Act in that such pollution is not prevented or remediated as required[9].

The Evidence for the Hydrologic Connection of  Wastewater from Kealakehe WWTP to the Waters of the United States.
1.  Hunt, C.D., Jr., 2007, Ground-Water Nutrient Flux to Coastal Waters and Numerical Simulation of Wastewater Injection at Kihei, Maui, Hawai‘i: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006–5283, 69 p.
This extensive USGS investigation proves that wastewater released underground at the DWS, joins the groundwater and flows to the sea and delivers nutrients there and delivers nutrients at that point. Several chemical markers of wastewater emerged in the test wells and Honokohau Harbor waters.  A rebuttal to this data states, without documented substantiation,  that conditions are substantially different along the Kona Coast, and the transport of water and nutrients to the sea does NOT occur.  is without documented substantiation.  The rebuttal arose from anecdotal conclusions by a DOH employee about a WDS dye test with visual as opposed to standardized spectrophotometric dye detection tests of the ocean waters. Simply stated, since the DOH employee did not visually see the dye emerge in the sea, there was no hydrologic connection.

2.  Paytan, Adina, et al. "Submarine groundwater discharge: An important source of new inorganic nitrogen to coral reef ecosystems." Limnology and Oceanography 51.1 (2006): 343-348.

In this elaborate hydrology study, groundwater and nitrogen flow to the shore were determined in many coastal sites. At the Kaloko site, groundwater flows were determined by Radon isotopic measurements to show 2730 liters per meter of shoreline per hour or about 720 gallons.  Daily Each day that amounts to 17 thousand gallons per meter of coastline.  The added nitrogen is 1.63 grams per meter per day. In one year, each meter of shoreline receives 39 pounds of nitrogen.  The Kahana site nitrogen was .74 grams per meter per day and a lower flux of 1440 liters per meter.

The authors state, “Specifically, we caution that the effect of nutrient enrichment of coastal
groundwater aquifers from domestic sewage or fertilizer may initiate eutrophication problems and cause alteration of community function and structure with significant biological, economic, and social implications."  Thus in 2007, renowned scientists from Stanford University gave us ample reason to invoke the Precautionary Principle.

IN WEST HAWAI`I , County of Hawai`i by: Marine Science Department at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo

The U.H. researchers reviewed environmental impact statements (EIS) data for the developments in West Hawai‘i.  Most EIS lacked sufficient data and time frames for meaningful interpretation. Some development areas that had sufficient data showed a significant increase in ocean nitrate.  One data set includes a near-shore golf course. The university recommended a comprehensive ocean-monitoring program for the Kona Coast. To date, no such program exists, and there is a lack of useful chronological data.  Such malfeasance serves only those officials that choose to exploit the Fallacy of Negative Proof.

4.  2008, Johnson, Adam G., et al. "Aerial infrared imaging reveals large nutrientrich groundwater inputs to the ocean." Geophysical Research Letters 35.15

In a continuation of Dr. C Glenn’s work, they show cold, nutrient-rich water entering Honokohau Harbor at the eastern headwall springs.  Their data is best shown in the graphic.

The coldest and most nutrient-rich water (dark blue) enters the harbor from the east (note yellow circle) and flows outward while mixing with the warmer seawater.  The cold fresher water floats on seawater. They estimate the flow at the headwall of 3.16 MGD (million gallons per day).  The DWS is 0.6-mile upslope and discharges 1.8 MGD.  It will be near impossible to argue that none of the wastewater is in the harbor flow. The DWS is the single largest source of nutrients in the watershed.

5.  2008 Parsons, Michael L., et al. "A multivariate assessment of the coral ecosystem health of two embayments on the lee of the island of Hawai ‘i." Marine pollution bulletin 56.6:1138-1149.

University of Hawai‘i professor M. Parsons working with W. Walsh and others collected massive volumes of historical and current data.  The data trends are apparent. Since 1991 the water quality of the ocean near Honokohau has degraded.  1991 is the year wastewater disposal began at the DWS.  The impairment includes:

A comparison of the slope and intercept confidence intervals indicates that the groundwater entering Honokohau Harbor has twice as much nitrate + nitrite and five times as much phosphate versus two decades earlier. The differences in the nutrient data analysis results between this study and O.I. Consultants (1991) indicate that the nutrient enrichment present today has occurred since 1991, and therefore after the harbor expansion in 1978.”

6.  Knee, K.L., Street, J.H., Grossman, E.E., and Paytan, Adina, 2008, Submarine groundwater discharge and fate along the coast of Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Hawai'i—Part 2, Spatial and Temporal Variations in Salinity, Radium-Isotope Activity, and Nutrient Concentrations in Coastal Waters, December 2003–April 2006: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5128, 31 p.

This study conducted from Honokohau north through the National Historic Park concludes:

·       Fresh groundwater is the primary source of nitrate, phos­phate, and silica to the coastal ocean in the park.
·       Nutrient concentrations in the fresh groundwater end-member are similar throughout the park.
·       Honoköhau Harbor and, to a lesser extent, Freeze Face Cove are "hot spots" for submarine groundwater discharge. The volume of fresh groundwater entering the coastal ocean at Honoköhau Harbor's mouth is more than ten times that of an equivalent length (~100 m) of park shoreline. Any change in quality or quantity of submarine groundwater dis­charge from Honokōhau Harbor would likely affect adjacent coastal areas in the park.

7.  Knee, Karen L., et al. "Nutrient inputs to the coastal ocean from submarine groundwater discharge in a groundwater-dominated system: relation to land use (Kona coast, Hawai'i, USA)." Limnology and Oceanography 55.3 (2010): 1105.

This 2010 research confirms higher nutrient concentrations in nearshore coastal waters.  The water near Honokohau is particularly nutrient-rich.  The two sites at Honokohau T9 and T10 had nutrient levels five and three times higher than the nearby open ocean. Given that the groundwater flows are more significant in Honokohau than the nearby National Historic Park (Knee 2009), the data is very indicative of a point source discharge at the harbor.  Moreover, the nutrient levels at T3 Kekaha Kai more closely resemble open ocean water.  This data suggests that nutrients in the groundwater are not uniformly distributed along the coastline.

8.  Dialer, Meghan, C. Smith, and C. Glenn. "Preventing the introduction and spread of nutrient driven invasive algal blooms and coral reef degradation in West Hawai’i." Final  Report to the Hawai'i Coral Reef Initiative (9/30/2011). Grant Number NA09NOS4260242 (2011).

This study measured marine plant uptake of nitrogen in the nearshore waters of the Kona Coast.  Stable isotopes of nitrogen provide information about the source of the nitrogen.  The heavier isotopes tend to originate in sewage and the like and not common to other sources.  Values greater than eight were found in marine plants at the mouth of Honokohau and values of 2 or less South of Honokohau but not in Kailua Bay.  This data points to the WSD as the source of the heavy isotope of N.   Some may argue it is from the small septic systems in the harbor, yet given the flows of over 3 MGD through the harbor, the mass balance of nitrogen indicates a very large source of N.

9.  Glenn, C. R., et al. "Lahaina groundwater tracer study–Lahaina, Maui, Hawai ‘i. Final Interim Report. Prepared for the State of Hawai‘i 'i Department of Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center." (2012): 463.

This Maui study is relevant to the Honokohau WDS to the extent that it proved a discharge to groundwater does flow into the sea, and nutrients in the wastewater are conveyed to the waters of the United States via a hydrologic connection.   How the hydrology at the DWS could be so different as NOT to allow wastewater to flow to the sea is beyond reasonable scientific explanation.

Integrated Report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Congress
Pursuant to §303(d) and §305(b), Clean Water Act (P.L. 97-117) The Hawai‘i Department of Health

This biennial state report of impaired waters to the EPA is? required.  Honokohau and Honokohau Beach have been listed under §303(d) of the CWA.  These waters have been officially listed since 2006 and every two years after that. The 2014 listing shows the waters to be out of compliance for Total Nitrogen (T.N.), Nitrate, Total Phosphate (T.P.), and Phosphate.   Once listed, the CWA requires remediation and practices put into place to assure the no further degradation occurs.  The county and the State have been knowingly negligent while, in the face of the Federal Listing , have repeatedly denied in public communications that there is no evidence indicating a problem.  They fail to mention the CWA does not require proof of harm. This decade-long pattern of obfuscation is intentional.

No reasonable scientific argument can be advanced to suggest the thousands of pounds of nutrients disposed of annually in the DWS causes no further degradation of the receiving waters of Honokohau.  Rather the science cited herein indicates incremental deterioration of the receiving waters is ongoing.

11.  Prouty, Nancy G., et al. "Groundwater-derived nutrient and trace element transport to a nearshore Kona coral ecosystem: Experimental mixing model results." Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies (2016).

To quote Prouty et al., “Treated wastewater effluent was the primary source for nutrient enrichment downstream at the Honokohau Harbor site. Conservative mixing for some constituents, such as nitrate + nitrite, illustrates the effectiveness of physical mixing to maintain oceanic concentrations in the colloid (0.02–0.45  _m) and truly dissolved (<0 .02="" span="">_m) forms. In contrast, the non-conservative behavior of phosphate highlights the importance of surface complexation reactions that can lead to higher concentrations based on conservative mixing alone. Results from this physiochemical mixing experiment demonstrates how the relative availability of P can shift with adsorption behavior, affecting the mobility of phosphate in the environment.

12. D’Angelo, Cecilia, and Jörg Wiedenmann. "Impacts of nutrient enrichment on coral reefs: new perspectives and implications for coastal management and reef survival." Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 7 (2014): 82-93.

The scientific synthesis reported in this journal article shows that nutrient excess in coral habitat contributes to and synergizes with the bleaching effects of water temperature. The authors state, “The presented synthesis of the literature suggests that the effects of nutrient enrichment and eutrophication beyond certain thresholds are negative for the physiological performance of the coral individual and ecosystem functioning. Hence, the immediate implementation of knowledge-based nutrient management strategies is crucial for coral reef survival”.

This issue is a global concern of particular environmental and economic importance to Hawai‘i.  Much of the coral reef offshore of Waikiki is dead and covered with invasive algae. The value of the Hawai‘ian reef system is approximately 360 million dollars per year to tourist and recreation industries and the overall asset value of 10 billion dollars in 2004.[10]  Thus there can be no mistake; successfully controlling the nutrient flows to the nearshore waters at Honokohau and elsewhere throughout the State should be a high priority for a broad range of justifications that transcend the law.

13.  Peterson, Richard N., William C. Burnett, Craig R. Glenn, and Adam G. Johnson. "Quantification of pointsource groundwater discharges to the ocean from the shoreline of the Big Island, Hawai‘i." Limnology and Oceanography 54, no. 3 (2009): 890-904.

This report from the Craig Glenn laboratory at UH Manoa used Radon isotope ratios to estimate the size of submarine water discharges along the Kona Coast.  Specifically, they measured groundwater flux in Honokohau Harbor.  They report volumes of water that flow into the harbor of up to twelve thousand cubic meters or 3.17 MGD. Groundwater test well upslope and away from the DWS in Koloko Honokohau NHP contains total nitrogen at 970 micrograms per liter.  By calculation, the background brackish water delivers 255 pounds of nitrogen per day into the harbor and out into the coastal waters.  Again, these waters are Listed Impaired by nitrogen by the State and the EPA.

"The physical behavior of the brackish groundwater distinguishes it as a subterranean estuary (STE). Oceanic tidal forcing within the subterranean estuary drives the recirculated seawater component of SGD (subterranean groundwater discharge). For example, high tidal levels and wave activity can drive seawater into the subsurface, with subsequent discharge (Moore 1999). In all cases, the permeability of the aquifer(s) exerts an important control on hydraulic conductivity. It is the combined presence of several of these forces that led Zektser (2000) to hypothesize that tropical islands, such as Hawai‘i, would have disproportionately high SGD fluxes compared to continental areas.  Practically, this means if we could peel back the surface lava down to sea level, a myriad of geologic channels would be seen rising and falling, flowing in and out, just as an estuary on the surface.  This tidal flux constitutes a profound hydrologic connection with the sea and validates the existence of the STE.

14. Johannesson, K. H., Palmore, C. D., Fackrell, J., Prouty, N. G., Swarzenski, P. W., Chevis, D. A., ... & Burdige, D. J. (2017). Rare-earth element behavior during groundwater–seawater mixing along the Kona Coast of Hawai‘i. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta198, 229-258.

This study examined Rare Earth Elements (REE) in groundwater and nearshore marine waters.  The REEʻs are uniformly distributed in-ground and seawater along the coast as they derive from groundwater communicating to the sea.  There is one anomaly and an anthropogenic source of one REE.  "A large positive 60 gadolinium (Gd) anomaly characterizes groundwater from the vicinity of the WWTF. The positive Gd anomaly can be traced to the coastal ocean, providing further evidence of the impact of SGD on the coastal waters”.

Gadolinium is used as an intravenous contrast media for specific types of MRIʻs.  It is rapidly excreted in the urine and feces at a rate of 90% in 24 hours. This excretion explains its presence in the wastewater of the KWWTP.

15. Bennett, R.H., Gardinali, P.R., (2019) The presence of Sucralose in wastewater and the coastal waters of West Hawai‘i.  (In preparation for the H2Open Journal)

Sucralose is ubiquitous in municipal wastewaters in developed countries.  The artificial sweeter is present in over 300 retail products.  The most popular product is the sweetener Splenda.  Once consumed, the triple chlorination of the sugar molecule prevents its digestion by the human and is rapidly excreted unchanged in the feces.  In the waste treatment process, Sucralose is remarkably stable and not degraded.  As such, it is used internationally as an indicator of wastewater contamination in drinking water and surface waters.

Sucralose was identified in 6 of 13 nearshore sites in W. Hawai‘i.  The highest concentration at almost four times the method detection limit was found in water along the submarine wall on the East end of Honokohau Harbor.  Wastewater at the end of the treatment scheme had a concentration of 1000 times that found in the harbor.  Kua Bay and Kailua Bay levels were below the detection limit.  Other sources of Sucralose at the same mass found in 1.8 MGD of wastewater are highly unlikely.  This data is further evidence of the hydrologic connection of the wastewater disposal sump to the waters of the United States.


The Public Trust Doctrine

Well before the County of Hawai‘i should choose to continue to use the DWS or SUMP as a primary or secondary means of KWWTP wastewater disposal, a Total Maximum Daily Loading Study must be executed in the Honokohou Kealakehe Watershed.  When the determination that the daily nutrient loading is excessive, mitigations to remove at least 90% of the nutrients before being discharged into the brackish groundwater must be activated. Such treatment is economical and in practice in the continental US). These actions must be done whether or not the Supreme Court rules that an NPDES[11] the permit is needed.   It must be done to fulfill the Countyʻs constitutional obligation to manage wastes and the ocean in the Public Trust.

In strong language, the Hawai`i Supreme Court described the public trust doctrine as “the right of the people to have the waters protected for their use [which] demands adequate provision for traditional and customary Hawai‘ian rights, wildlife, maintenance of ecological balance and scenic beauty, and the preservation and enhancement of the waters . . .”
"For the benefit of present and future generations, the State and its political subdivisions shall conserve and protect Hawai‘i's natural beauty and all-natural resources, including land, water, air, minerals, and energy sources, and shall promote the development and utilization of these resources in a manner consistent with their conservation and in furtherance of the self-sufficiency of the State. All public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people."
(Article XI Constitution)

Class AA Pristine waters

The marine waters near the Kona Coast are Class AA per the State of Hawai‘i Administrative Rules § 11-54-3 (c)(1)   The rule states,
 “ It is the objective of class AA waters that these waters remain in their natural pristine state as nearly as possible with an absolute minimum of pollution or alteration of water quality from any human-caused source or actions.  To the extent possible the wilderness character of these areas shall be protected.”
 These directives are clear and not optional.  However, the state has allowed human-caused alterateration when it permits tons of nutrients from the KWWTP to flow into the ocean in clear defiance of its own regulations.  The message this conveys to the County of Hawai‘i is that water quality rule violations have no consequences.

The Precautionary Principle

International Law and treaties establish the Precautionary Principle[12].  It says that when science is not clear about the environmental consequences of an action or policy and convincing that countries will err on the side of caution until such time are science clarifies the issue.

In the matter of the KWWTP sump discharge polluting the nearshore waters, applying the precautionary principle, we can document that such discharge is harmful to the marine environment.  Tragically, nutrient pollution effects synergize with ocean warming accelerating the demise of the coral reef.  There is little we can do about ocean warming, thus amplifying the need for greater precautions.

Reasonable Scientific Certainty

In this matter of the KWWTP wastewater disposal in the "sump," the demand for scientific proof is absurd as no such proof can be established.

In contrast, all scientific knowledge is tentative and provisional, and nothing is final.  There is no such thing as ultimate proven knowledge in science.  The currently accepted theory of a phenomenon is simply the best explanation for it among all available alternatives.  Its status as the accepted theory is contingent on what other theories are available and might suddenly change tomorrow if there appears a better theory or new evidence that might challenge the accepted theory.  No knowledge or theory (which embodies scientific knowledge) is final.[13]

In public policy and the courts, demands for “scientific proof” are simple ploys to obfuscate. Instead, the phrase  "reasonable scientific certainty" is the scientists' statement that all the evidence in the matter points to a reasonable and logical conclusion.  It is a conclusion not formed by opinion and the absense of data.[14]

We can conclude from the preceding evidence that wastewater from the KWWTP discharged and percolated into the fractured lava 0.6 miles from coastline emerges in toto or in part to the nearshore waters of the State.When the tests of reasonable scientific certainty or logical scientific conclusions are applied, it is shown that all available evidence supports the conclusion as does common sense.  Water flows downhill under the influence of gravity.

No contrary evidence is available, yet there is ample speculation that is absent of any data that there might be an alternative hypothesis.  Such speculation is another tool for obfuscation that only confuses and delays the acceptance of the obvious and sound scientific conclusions.


From 2006 and on, scientific studies by notable scientists from Standford University, the US Geological Survey, The University of Hawai‘i, Manoa, and Hilo, and other prominent research universities provide vast arrays of data that describe the hydrology of the West Hawai‘i plain  and elevated concentrations of marine nitrogen and phosphorus atypical of tropical islands.  Moreover, the isotopic signature of nitrogen in nearshore algae indicates the source is human waste.  This delta N 15 ratio is highest in the urban areas and most prominent in the Honokohou shores.  Historical data evaluated by Parsons clearly shows a trend for increasing nitrogen coincident with the new use of the sump for wastewater discharge.

Finally, two chemicals used exclusively for human applications provide a unique tracer. If these elements are found in marine waters, their presence undisputedly indicates a human waste source.   Galidinium is a rare earth element and can be found in waters at extremely low concentrations.  Galidinium was the only rare earth element found to be elevated in the near coastal waters.   The element is compounded for use as an IV contrast media for enhancing the resolution of medical MRIʻs. Galidinum is 90% excreted in the urine within 24 hours after injection.  Elevated Galidiniun in the waters of Honokohau Harbor is conclusive for wastewaters' presence.

Another marker for human wastewater is Sucralose.  It is excreted quickly in the urine, is very stable, and persists through wastewater treatment and in the open ocean.  In a recent study, Wastwater from KWWTP had the highest concentration, and the headwall springs at Honokohau Harbor had the second-highest concentration.  By far, the most logical source at 1.8 MGD is the water from the sump and KWWTP.

The array of evidence and data indicating the source of nutrient pollution by the KWWTP Sump is massive.  Evidence to the contrary does not seem to exist in scientific publications. Thus the most reasonable and logical conclusion and the only evidence-based supposition is that wastewater from KWWTP is flowing into nearshore waters of Hawai‘i and the United States.

People will continue to speculate and obfuscate the issue, yet absent data, the words are hollow arguments.   The evidence provided herein is sufficient from many perspectives of science and public policy. Calls for more research, such as a fluorescent dye testing as done in Maui by Glenn et al. (see 9. Above) will be an expensive delay tactic that only reiterates the findings already published in peer-reviewed journals. The conclusions about KWWTP wastewater contamination of the ocean are constructed within a reasonable scientific certainty.

This debate is not new; it plods on now for 27 years in spite of the scientific evidence. The pollution continues, and the ocean environment is harmed.  The Hawai‘i Constitution holds that stateʻs resources are held in public trust, and it is to that trust and science that government must account.


* Dr. Bennett researches water quality in stream, estuarian, and ocean environments. Experience spans the past 40 years;  twenty of those years in West Hawai‘i.  Dr. Bennett is the immediate past chairmen of the County of Hawai‘i Environmental Management Commission.  He was recently appointed to chair the Kona Section of the Water Keepers Alliance International.  He is a microbiologist specializing in Environmental Medical Microbiology.
This critique is available on line at www.H2Okona.org in the February 2020 posting


[2] Bishop, R. E., Humphreys, W. F., Cukrov, N., Žic, V., Boxshall, G. A., Cukrov, M., ... & Sket, B. (2015). ‘Anchialine’redefined as a subterranean estuary in a crevicular or cavernous geological setting. Journal of Crustacean Biology35(4), 511-514.
[3] Correspondance L. Lau, Deputy Director, HDOH
[4] Hydrology of the Hawaiian Islands, LS Lau, JF Mink, 2006, University of Hawai‘i Press. P. 234
[5] https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-water-act
[6] Sierra Club et al. V. County of Maui, Judge Mollway, Case 1:12-cv-00198-SOM-BMK
[7] Dr. B. Anderson, West Hawai‘i County Forum Sept 22, 2016
[8] Hawai‘i Administrative Rules § 11-54, Class A.A. Pristine Waters
[9] CFR § 130.7 Total maximum daily loads (TMDL) and individual water quality-based effluent limitations
[10] Cesar, Herman SJ, and Pieter Van Beukering. "Economic valuation of the coral reefs of Hawai'i." Pacific Science 58.2 (2004): 231-242.
 [11] https://www.epa.gov/npdes/npdes-frequent-questions
[12] Kriebel, D., Tickner, J., Epstein, P., Lemons, J., Levins, R., Loechler, E. L., ... & Stoto, M. (2001). The precautionary principle in environmental science. Environmental health perspectives109(9), 871-876.
[13] Common misconceptions about science I: “Scientific proof” Why there is no such thing as a scientific proof. Psychology TodayNovember 2008
[14] Demougin, Dominique, and Claude Fluet. "Preponderance of evidence." European Economic Review 50, no. 4 (2006): 963-976.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you hugely for your kuleana and care. The mandate to shut down cesspools in Hawaii means more and more homes in the vicinity of Kailua-Kona will be connected to this waste water channel into our coastal oceans. Regardless of financial burden this needs to change. How and who can change this negligent choice of our political leadership is a priority. I want pristine coastal waters to be something enjoyed by the next 7 generations of my family! Without our active and persistent public involvement, the only positive outcome will require our collective absence as a species.