Toxic Sand Bar In Hanalei Bay Laced with Heavy Metals

article top

BY TERRY LILLY –  I have been studying the reefs in Hanalei Bay since 2006 trying to find out why the corals are dying in shallow water. It appears the coral die off is related to the continual mud flowing out of the Hanalei River. These materials are also making large sand bars at the mouth of the river. I found several ongoing digging projects in the wetland that were not permitted under the Endangered Species Act.

Two projects are private and one is government. None of these projects are using the mandatory sediment traps to keep mud from flowing into the bay. Just go North out of Hanalei right now and you will see a bridge rebuilding project taking  place on a small creek. Notice in the creek you will see the mandatory yellow sediment traps being uses properly.


Several weeks ago I took several mud sample for testing by a professional lab in Honolulu called “Test America” to see what is in the mud in the river and bay. This mud is building up right now near the Hanalei Pier like it did last summer. The test results just came back and they are stunning!! Here are some of the results right out of the report and I have the report available for review.

  • Arsenic           29 parts per million (ppm)
  • Barium            19 ppm
  • Chromium      120 ppm
  • Lead               2.4 ppm
We are also testing for Dioxin which is the most dangerous chemical on earth! I bet it will be in the bay and river since it was used in agent orange testing in the river years ago.

The EPA website (Environmental Protection Agency) has on their web the legal limit of these chemicals in drinking water and they are less than “one” ppm. That means our samples have more than 29 times the legal level for drinking water for Arsenic.

Heavy metal poisoning can cause serious illness. Just read the info on the EPA web site. It is a violation of the Clean Water Act to dump mud and heavy metals into the Hanalei Bay but this occurs daily! I have lots of video and pics with GPS, time and date.

I believe and can show with video and lab test, that this mud and heavy metal release is killing the reef in Hanalei Bay and making people sick! The DOH in Honolulu (Watson Okubo) told me in an email that their department did similar lab test of the mud in the Hanalei Bay a year ago but have not released the results to the public, as they are still being analyzed. It only took us one hour to analyse our reports and I believe they both were done by the same lab.

If you are bothered like I am to have high levels of heavy metals in the water where we surf and swim, then maybe you could call the DOH, EPA, DLNR and Mayor to express your concerns and demand a clean up. The numbers are in the phone book. I have already sent these agencies a full report but they are not responding. This is not a right wing, left wing, good old boy network, or political issue. It is a simple heath issue that effects us all and it is getting worse with time.

This problem can be fixed. It just needs a little public attention. We are also raising funds through our non profit to do more testing to see if the heavy metal concentrations are high through out the bay or just in localized spots. If you can help with funding please let me know as we have spent over $2,000 so far on these expensive test.

em>Terry Lilley is with The Hanalei River heritage Foundation in Hanalei, Kauai





Comments are closed.