March 24, 2014

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

March 19, 2014 Pohnpei, FSM -The results of the 2014 Survey of Perennial Streams in Pohnpei are in, but according to Pohnpei's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no firm conclusions regarding the state of Pohnpei's rivers can yet be drawn from them.

An EPA spokesperson said that a variety of unpredictable factors can influence individual test results including rainy days that can wash what would otherwise be land based bacteria into rivers. "Even a pig farmer washing out his pigpens upstream while we were testing could influence the results," the spokesperson said.

Pig pens, outhouses, and septic systems situated too close to Pohnpei's rivers are likely the biggest causes of E. coli contamination in the 40 rivers and streams that were tested. Several organizations including the EPA have been working to eradicate upriver sources of E. coli contamination but the results of their efforts may not be known for a long while.

EPA says it needs to accumulate data over several years. Even when this year's test results showed E. coli readings that were under the threshold for recreational use, the report listed the readings for the rivers as "transitional".

In 2013 the survey of the same rivers showed that 65 percent of Pohnpei's rivers were unfit for recreational use at the time of the survey. The levels of E. coli were higher than 576 mpn ("most probable number"-a statistical term) per 100 ml of water, the level considered to be safe for recreational use. This year's test results taken from the same sample sites said that 50 percent of Pohnpei's rivers that contained higher levels of E. coli than is considered to be safe.

Four rivers that were measured to be safe last year failed the test this year, one in Madolenihmw and three in Kitti. Of those, the Dauen Kopil River in Kitti had the highest increase in the E. coli readings. The reading for that river last year was 430 mpn/100 ml of water. This year the level was 3200. EPA has not declared those rivers to be safe but has published the readings and declared their status to be "transitional".

Eleven rivers that were tested at levels considered to be unsafe for recreational use last year had levels this year that were considered to be safe at the time of testing. EPA also declared the states of those rivers to be in transition.

The report says that nine rivers in Pohnpei "Remain Good", meaning that last year's tests and this year's tests showed levels that were safe for recreational use. 16 of the rivers had E. coli above the acceptable recreational use levels when they were tested in 2013 and 2014. They "Remain Bad".