Health department says algae blooms are not new to Hawaii

Algae bloom on Kauai (Photo: Dept. of Health)

The Dept. of Health says the recent algae bloom on Kauai is nothing new to the islands.

Officials say the substance, which prompted a brown water advisory for the Garden Isle over the weekend, is a natural occurrence and usually peaks during the hot summer months.

It doesn’t typically pose a threat in the open ocean because it dissipates quickly, but people are still advised to stay out.

“It will cause a discoloration and some species of algae, if you swim through those waters where there’s an algae bloom taking place, it can cause an itch or a rash,” explained Gary Gill, the department’s deputy director for environmental health.

Gill says in a confined body of water, like a lake, an algae bloom can deplete the water of oxygen killing off fish.

Meanwhile, officials confirm they are in discussion with the Environmental Protection Agency over new nationwide guidelines to determine when a beach should be closed.

“This is a really difficult thing to do because every state has different waters. They have different conditions and obviously here in Hawaii, we’re the only tropical state in the nation,” Gill said. “Often the mainland standards don’t make sense to us, so there’s a period of internal review where all the states are commenting on this draft plan that the EPA has proposed and that will go on for a number of months or even years before the EPA might come up with a solution or totally withdraw this suggestion.”

The EPA says guidelines include addressing a broader range of illness symptoms, better accounting for pollution after heavy rainfall, providing more protective recommendations for coastal waters, encouraging early alerts to beachgoers and promoting rapid water testing.

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