Waikiki Ala Wai Canal A Long Smelly Mess
The classification means the state must keep the canal safe for recreational use “in and on” the water, as well as protect its aquatic life.
But a Civil Beat review of the past seven years of data on enterococci — a bacteria the state uses as an indicator for dangerous levels of pathogens — shows that the canal fails state standards the majority of the time. Bacteria levels in the canal rarely fall below the state’s safe limit for recreational bodies of water and often spike tens of times higher than acceptable levels.
A toxic soup of other pollutants have been detected in the canal over the years, too, including heavy metals, pesticides and excessive levels of nutrients that can cause algae blooms and can be harmful to human health.
"You don't remove the use because the standards aren't met," said Janet Hashimoto, a manager for water quality standards in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's San Francisco office, which oversees Hawaii.
"The expectation is one of these days it will meet the use of the standards."
But past data on bacteria levels suggest the state is far from on its way to meeting those standards.