New & Noteworthy: Honokohau Headache, Staph Alert, and a Correction

posted in: September 2021 | 1

Honokohau Headache: In 2020, Environment Hawaiʻi detailed in its August and September cover stories the strife surrounding the auction of a 10-year lease to operate the boat storage yard at Honokohau small boat harbor in West Hawaiʻi.

Until recently, the two co-owners of Pacific Marine Partners, which had won the lease, had been in court-ordered arbitration over their respective interests in the company. 

Jason Hoʻopai had claimed his company, International and Pacific Enterprises, owned 95 percent and Jonas Ikaika Solliday owned just 5 percent. Solliday contended that PMPʻs operating agreement split their ownership interest 50-50.

On August 29, the 3rd Circuit Court approved the arbitrator’s findings of fact and conclusion that Solliday was correct.

What would seem like a victory for Solliday has been anything but.

According to motions seeking injunctive relief, a temporary retraining order and preliminary injunction, and $2.2 million in damages filed by PMP and Solliday late last month, Hoʻopai effectively abandoned PMP after the arbitrator first issued his decision on April 7. Hoʻopai also began operating a competing boat storage business at Keauhou.

In defiance of the arbitrator’s order, Hoʻopai failed to immediately give Solliday access to PMP accounts and business records, Solliday’s attorneys claim.

“[F]ollowing receipt of the Arbitrator’s decision, Hoʻopai abruptly disengaged from its day-to-day PMP responsibilities including from all customer invoicing, inquiries, and bookkeeping, doing so despite not having provided Solliday with access to PMP accounts, important customer information, and other important business records,” Sollidayʻs attorneys state in one of their filings.

“As the result of IPE/Hoopai’s actions, PMP has directly suffered damages in the form of lost business opportunity, lost rental income, loss of good will, the expense of replacing company equipment, and the cost of reproducing missing financial data and records that IPE/Hoopai has refused to provide,” they write.

A hearing on the TRO and preliminary injunction has been scheduled for October 13.

Staph Alert: For some time, researchers have been aware of the relatively high incidence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections in Hawaiʻi, as compared to elsewhere in the nation. A study just published in the journal Antibiotics takes a deeper look at just how prevalent MRSA bacteria are in the coastal waters, estuaries, and sands that are popular among bathers on the Big Island.

As the authors – including lead author Tyler J. Gerken, who did his undergraduate work at the University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo – write, “We found S. aureus in coastal beach and river waters, anchialine pools, and sand at locations with limited human activity on the island of Hawaiʻi.” 

The authors looked for the presence of not just the MRSA strain of staph, but also the methicillin-susceptible strain (MSSA), which is also a health hazard: MRSA infections have a mortality rate of around 14 deaths per 100,000 hospitalizations in the United States, while the MSSA-related mortality is 11 per 100,000.

Samples were taken from 36 stations in Hilo, Kohala, Kona, and Puna and were characterized using whole-genome sequencing. Of the 361 samples, 20 were positive for MSSA (5.5 percent), while 8 were positive for MRSA. 

The study was conducted in the second half of 2020, when tourist activity was severely reduced in the state because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors note. “Consequently, this study may underrepresent the full extent of S. aureus contamination in coastal and aquatic Hawaiian environments.”

Their conclusion: Big Island beaches are contaminated with both strains of staph, with the MRSA a strain that is likely circulating in the community. The beaches of the island “are a potential health risk for both MRSA and MSSA infections in humans.”

Lopped Off: An editing error led to the loss of the last few words of our June 2021 cover story, “Latest Red Hill Spill Complicates Contested Case on Operating Permit,” as well as the byline.

The last sentence should have read: Parties were set to submit their post-hearing briefs and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law by June 14. The byline: Teresa Dawson

  1. Richard Bennett PHD

    The findings of Staph. aureus are not that surprising. Other researchers have found S.a. on beaches throughout California. What will be novel to most people is that S.a. is fecally shed by about a third of us. Thus it is in wastewater from cesspits and septic systems island-wide. As the wastewater flows to the sea, it is seeded in the sand, where it is well protected from the harmful UV light of the sun. Few if any wastewater systems operate to reduce bacterial loads significantly. We are working on the “layer cake” system required in Florida to reduce nutrients and bacteria. Funding is needed to advance this work into high gear.

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