Kealakehe Pilikia: The County of Hawai`i is facing mounting pressure to stop its practice of dumping treated effluent from the Kealakehe sewage treatment plant into a disposal pit near the Kona coast.
As reported in the July issue of Environment Hawai`i, the plant was designed and built on the promise that effluent would be reused for irrigation. However, a golf course that was supposed to receive most of the effluent was never built and, 20 years since its construction, the effluent continues to be directed to a disposal pit. In the wake of a recent federal court decision finding that injection wells from the Lahaina sewage treatment plant discharged into the ocean, requiring Maui County to obtain a Non-Point Source Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, the Big Island group of the Sierra Club, Hawai`i Chapter, has given the Kealakehe plant operations close scrutiny.
One result has been a letter signed by 20 scientists urging an end to the practice of dumping the Kealakehe effluent into the disposal pit. They note that a draft report from the state Department of Health designates nearshore waters near Hohokohau (downslope from the disposal pit) as “impaired,” while two nearby bathing sites (Honokohau Beach and Pinetrees-Honokohau) “had multiple violations of water quality pollutants.”
“In the current system, we are both wasting a valuable water resource and threatening the local economy with its prosperous eco-tourism industry…. For all of these aforementioned reasons and more, we respectfully request that the original promise of the Kealakehe Waste Water Treatment plant for water reuse finally be realized.”
Among those signing the letter were Megan Lamson; Richard H. Bennett; William Gilmartin; Ann Kobsa; William J. Walsh; Rick Warshauer; and Tracy Wiegner.
Give Aloha: It’s September, which means Foodland’s “Give Aloha” program is in full swing. This allows supporters of Environment Hawai`i and other non-profits to make donations, a portion of which, based on total donations, will be matched by the company.
To donate, you need to have Foodland’s “Maikai” shopper card. Then you need to tell the cashier at check-out you wish to make a donation to Environment Hawai`i. Our account number is 77036, but if you forget, you can look it up on the brochure at the register. Any amount up to $249 per individual will be accepted through the end of the month.
Attack on the Ants: This month, the Hawai`i Ant Lab, Kaua`i Invasive Species Committee, and state Department of Agriculture are slated to launch Phase 2 of their effort to eradicate little fire ants (LFA) on Kaua`i.
For more than a decade, the ants have persisted in the heavy vegetation in and around the town of Kalihiwai, located near prime seabird habitat surrounding the Kilauea lighthouse. Introduced to Kaua`i in 1999 via infested palm trees imported from Hawai`i island, the ants have spread from a palm arboretum to adjacent properties.
Phase 1 of the eradication plan developed in 2011 by the three agencies involved the pesticide treatment of three private properties, including the arboretum, which has 183 palm trees that are more than 4.5 meters tall.
In addition to using granular bait on the ground, workers plastered trees with a putty-like gel bait developed by the ant lab.
“It works wonderfully. It sticks up into the trees. You can splatter and broadcast it throughout the vegetation,” said Hawai`i Ant Lab research specialist Michelle Montgomery at the Hawai`i Conservation Conference last July.
The properties received eight treatments over 12 months.
Although the ant population declined significantly, Montgomery said it’s too soon to declare the ants eradicated from the slash piles and tall palm trees on the properties. She added that the area will be monitored for three more years and remnant colonies will be spot treated.
Phase 2 will involve the treatment of steep slopes and sensitive coastline habitat, she said.
The LFA is one of the least-studied ants in the world and “classic ant control methods are not very effective unless it’s in a simple ecosystem in a dry climate,” she said.
Volume 25, Number 3 September 2014