Little Dolphin

Click on a link below to get specific info on a particular ocean contamination issue for West Hawaii Waters

In Hawaiian, Mâlama I Ke Kai
"Protect the Ocean"

If everyone takes a small step, and does what they can, collectively we can make a big difference in the quality of Hawaiian waters. One goal is to get an info card installed in every rental property and private home around and above Kealakekua bay.

The purpose of this page is to provide supplementary material, in addition to the quarter page flier which appears to be inspiring people in West Hawaii, starting around Kealakekua Bay. This page will be organized in order of the three topics, as presented on the flier, and for more information, you can click on a link in the sidebar to the left.

The main point:

Down the Drain, Into the Ocean:

Cess pits, lava tubes, even septic tanks, and higher elevation systems ultimately drain directly into the ocean.

The 'aina (The Sacred Land) of Hawaii is very permeable. Ideas about wastewater management from the mainland don't really apply, especially in proximity to a special and delicate ecosystem like the marine sanctuary of Kealakekua Bay, or all of West Hawaii, for that matter. Today water is used and moved, and flushed, in a way completely different than the old times. Around Kealakekua Bay, perhaps a majority of households are using 'cess pits' or pukas into lava tubes. These arrangements, while cheap to set up and convenient initially, are draining human wastewater into our very special Ke Kai (Ocean Ecosystem). There are four major action steps that individuals can take, in addition to working on addressing agricultural runoff and reducing use of commerical pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers.


Nutrients in waste water feeds marine algae and makes the water murky.

This is a common problem worldwide. The biggest concern for contamination of waters is probably agricultural runoff, which for instance has severely damaged the Everglades in Florida. In West Hawaii, we may have an issue with agricultural fertilizers (golf courses too), but there is also an issue with insufficiently treated waste water that leaches into the ocean, meaning the 'black water' systems like cess pools, septic tanks, etc.

Perhaps the 'lowest hanging fruit' for changing the impact of 'black water' systems, in the case of household scale systems like cess pools and septic tanks, is to employ 'grey water' systems that reduce the load on the existing 'black water' systems (where the poop goes). By keeping high volume water sources like outflow of shower and laundry out of the septic system or cess pool, then the digesting action of the 'black water' system can do a good job with its important work.

Of course, if golf courses and major agricultural operations can manage the runoff into the ocean, that is a good thing. The porosity of the lava beds is probably a real challenge, though.

See "Install graywater systems, composting toilets, etc." below.


Optical Brighteners and other chemicals* in waste
water may damage corals and other marine life.

Therefore, it is suggested to please:
Buy biodegradable laundry soap like Ecover or 7th Genwithout brighteners, and keep your dirty wash water outof the water table (run into plants, use to clean porch, etc). Use biodegradable dish soap too.

Bulk Biodegradable soap can be purchased at Costco. You now have a range of options at Choice Mart and the various healthfood stores. Someone could make a business creating locally produced affordable biodegradable soaps.

Anything you wouldn't want to eat yourself, and can keep out of the water table - maybe you don't want to feed that to our aquatic friends. Given the porosity of the island, it is likely that certain noxious chemicals and compounds that are flushed may actually be in the ocean in short order - the list includes insect poisons, herbicides, and even pharmaceuticals. For example: studies are indicating that the estrogens in human urine from birth control pills, while seemingly in minute quantities, can actually affect fish fertility. While the chemical industry strongly markets very poisonous substances, they may be less needed (Save Money!) if alternative strategies are employed. An example of this would be to clean your kitchen after meals, wiping counters down with suds from a basic biodegradable dish soap and sweeping up crumbs - this completely removes the interest for cockroaches, etc - they have no reason to come visit, and you don't need to expose your family and pets to exotic poisons. There are usually alternatives - pernicious toxic compounds remain in the environment and can be carried to ocean by surface runoff too.

*There are various chemicals in commercial laundry detergent, and much of what we flush. Optical brighteners are what is added to laundry products to "make your whites whiter, and your colors brighter" - and they can affect the appearance of the water, potentially making it murky and blocking off light to corals. They may not be the most important contaminant chemicals in waste water, however Dr. Rick Bennett Phd** has been using them as a distinguishable chemical marker to track the flow of waste water, with its other undesireable elements, into the ocean.

Triclosan in 'anti-bacterial' hand soaps is a potent fish poison.

Use non-toxic soaps. Choice Mart has CleanWell, Ecover...

This is why the 'anti-bacterial' scrubbies cannot be used in aquarium tanks - yup, kills all the fish. So lets keep it out of our waters!***

Many common sunscreen ingredients
are toxic to corals.

Reduce your need for sunscreens with use of protective watersport clothing, and select for ingredients like Zinc Oxide (not nano) and Avobenzone for your health too!

There are many options. The best options involve bringing less UV blocking chemicals and substances into the water. Corals need light to survive. Wetsuits and other garments that completely block the sun, without chemicals, are obviously a great way to protect people with delicate skin. One new development is the new Bio-astin product, which was invented on this island. Neem oil is reputed to act in a similar way, reducing the body's reaction to the UV rays, but may not have been independently tested in the USA. Meanwhile there are many sunscreen products out there, some of which may actually be more harmful than beneficial. One potential source for more information is:

While the EWG is controversial as a lobbying group in Washington DC, this site seems to have a lot of useful information if you want to make a more informed decision about sunscreens.

The site is thorough and includes this nugget:

"Recently available data from an FDA study indicate that a form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight (NTP 2009). This evidence is troubling, because the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 25 percent of all sunscreens."

Meanwhile, since the EWG requires your email to access their info, as do many corporate sites, consider visiting and signing up for a 'disposable email address' account - to protect your inbox, it's a great free service.

Staph and Fecal coliform counts are high in Kealakekua Bay

Install graywater systems, composting toilets, etc.

This is more complicated, but our local water expert Dr. Rick Bennett explains how one of the best things we can do on such a challenging issue, is to separate black water and grey water systems. By keeping your kitchen, shower and laundry drains out of the cess pool, then all that extra water is not flushing the cess pool contents into the Bay. This allows the black water system (cess pool or septic tank) to work more effectively to break down bacteria and whatnot that is best kept out of the ocean. Imagine: happier fish, dolphins, and human swimmers because we put in a few extra garden beds - more flowers is the ecological option for the K Bay community. Who woulda thunk it?

Friendly local resident Bob Florent recently loaned me a very interesting book which reveals a great deal of information about waste water systems, and deals specicially with treating sewage, from a broad perspective, and explains a lot of technical details in lay person's language:

"Sewage Solutions, Answering the call of nature" by Nick Grant, Mark Moodle, and Chris Weedon. Centre for Alternative Technology Publications. ISBN 1 89804 916 5

Composting toilets are manufactured and can be produced in various configurations.

Last week I found two publicly visitable units in operation in the Kealakekua Bay area:
1) One Island Sustainability Center on Painted Church road offers work/study opportunities on wednesdays and sports such a unit.
2) The Park at Honaunau is operating a composting toilet at the South end of the park: take the long straight trail up the old ramp and once on top of the cliff, continue through the gate another 1/4 mile. Seems to be working very well, and a good solution for a remote spot.


** The creator of this website first met "Dr. Rick" at Honaunau, where he was working with a student on testing the waters for optical brighteners. Dr. Rick Bennett, PhD is President of Applied Life Sciences LLC, formerly with the University of California, Davis. He is a Professor Rank Environmental Scientist with 36 years experience in the field.

*** This popular 'antibacterial' hand soap has cute fish on its packaging. Many are attracted to buy it for the beach house. . . But the active ingredient is triclosan, a powerful fish poison.

fish poison soap


The usual disclaimer:. The author of this web material takes full responsibilty for the information presented here, but not for its application. Every effort has been made to provide factually accurate information. If there is an error or omission, please report to the address below.