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Puako is considered some of Hawaii's best reefs, though it's been rather long recognized that the cesspools adjacent to the reefs may be a problem. The past several decades have seen a decrease in overall reef health, measured in terms of fish abundance and corals.


In the summer of 2013, my collaborator Catherine Kim and I launched a study on the relationship between sewage pollution and the coral disease Porites growth anomalies (PGAs). We used Enterococcus counts and delta-15-N isotope bioassays to infer levels of sewage pollution on the coast, which we related to the results of PGA surveys. We detected sewage pollution in the area, lso finging that it varied in space and time. While our sample size was relatively small, our results also suggested the pollution could influence PGAs.

We are excited that greater efforts by the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the Nature Conservancy are investigating the matter further. We look forward to the work giving us a better idea of pollution in Puako and hopefully enacting positive change to improve the reefs.

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