WRRC Hosted a Portable Multi-use Automated Concentration System (PMACS) Training Workshop from June 1 – 5, 2015

WRRC hosted a training workshop from June 1 – 5, 2015, which focused on a novel instrument: a Portable Multi-use Automated Concentration System (PMACS), capable of concentrating microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria and protozoa from large sample volumes. The instrument provides better representation of microorganisms present in water when compared to conventional grab sampling and allows quantification of rare microbial targets, which otherwise may elude detection. As the instrument is automated, there is little room for operator error and sample-to-sample variation is minimized.

Under the guidance of Dr. Elizabeth Kearns (University of South Florida) and Dr. Marek Kirs (WRRC), the instrument was put to the test by the Clean Water Branch (HI DOH) and WRRC teams in challenging conditions to recover microorganisms from 100 L water and 10 kg sand samples. In addition to providing hands-on experience in sample collection and recovery for all participants, the workshop also provided training in system maintenance and troubleshooting. WRRC’s purchase of the instrument was made possible by a kind donation from Mr. Richard Cox, brother of the Water Center’s first director, Dr. Doak Cox. The funding for the workshop was provided by the HI DOH.

The PMAC system will first be used to address the elevated bacteria levels in Kahaluu, where the suspected source is cesspools and complements ongoing underwater seep monitoring at Lahaina, Maui, and emerging concerns with injection wells close to coastal waters. DOH would like to thank WRRC for their past support in developing Clostridium perfringens as a secondary tracer for recreational waters and now the PMACS opens doors in addressing virus and pathogen issues.


Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore Presented the Stephen and Marylyn Pauley Seminar in Sustainability at UH Manoa

The Pauley Seminar is Capstone of Ascent: Energy and Water Sustainability, Presented by:  
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Chancellor Tom Apple, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, and the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program April 15 

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore presented a free public lecture at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) campus on April 15, 2014.

The seminar was the capstone of the day-long summit, Ascent, organized by UH and Senator Schatz, which welcomed notable dignitaries from around the country to Hawai‘i in order to discuss and propose solutions to Hawai‘i’s most pressing problems. The topics included renewable energy, sustainable energy and water use, and the impacts of human practice and climate change on the essential resources.

Al Gore In Japan To Promote "An Inconvenient Truth" Film And Book

Vice President Gore, known for his visionary leadership and decades of work on reducing the harmful impacts of climate change, shared his insight on these and related topics and how they relate to Hawai‘i.

“We are very fortunate that former Vice President Gore will be in Hawai‘i to address an issue that is very important to our university and community,” said UHM Chancellor Tom Apple. “We hope the discussion about sustainability and climate change have a lasting impact and will push Hawai‘i into the global arena.”

“Vice President Gore has been a true friend and ally in the climate change fight. He is a leading voice on clean energy and I am honored he is joining us to discuss Hawai‘i’s future,” said Senator Brian Schatz, Chairman of the Senate Water and Power Energy Subcommittee. “Our state has charted a path forward for a clean energy economy and served as a model for the rest of the country. We need to continue to promote the development of clean energy, which will make Hawai‘i more sustainable and self-sufficient.”

“I am continually impressed by Hawai‘i’s innovative thinking, from clean energy to water to transit,” said Vice President Gore. “Through his work as chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Water and Power subcommittee, Senator Schatz is proving himself as a committed leader for our country while simultaneously shining a light on Hawai‘i’s achievements as a national leader on clean energy, sustainability, and climate adaptation.”

The seminar was part of the Stephen and Marylyn Pauley Seminar in Sustainability series, organized by the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program and co-hosted by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, and other partners, which periodically hosts speakers of the highest distinction. The University’s most prestigious seminar series honors the Pauley Foundation’s significant support of the University of Hawai‘i, Dr. Stephen Pauley’s remarkable individual sustainability efforts, and Mrs. Marylyn Pauley’s national and visionary leadership in higher education.

Stephen and Marylyn Pauley Seminars in Sustainability are only offered when a particularly significant, timely and critical issue and notable speaker are identified. Seminar topics are diverse with academic, social, cultural, and economic importance. To date the seminars have included light pollution, human health and community design, energy independence and climate change, and fiscal sustainability.

The free seminar was co-hosted by the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Chancellor’s Office, and the University of Hawai‘i Foundation. It was held at the Stan Sheriff Center, which can accommodate approximately 10,000 people.

Expert Environmental Microbiologist from Portugal Visiting WRRC Scientists – Delivering Seminar.

Dr. João Brandão, from the Reference Unit for Parasitic and Fungal Infection Instituto Nacional de Saúde/National Institute of Health Department of Infectious Diseases, in Lisbon, Portugal will be in Honolulu the week of Feb. 25, 2014 to meet with WRRC microbiologists Drs. Marek Kirs and Roger Fujioka to discuss issues of microbial contamination of beach sand.

Beach water is often monitored for microbiological quality to detect the presence of indicators of human sewage contamination so as to prevent public health outbreaks associated with water contact. However, despite popular belief that sun light sterilizes surfaces, beach sand harbors microbes harmful to human health, often in concentrations greater than the beach water. Currently, there are no standards for monitoring, sampling, analyzing, or managing beach sand quality. Growing evidence has identified pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites in a variety of beach sands worldwide. Regulatory agencies need to address this problem: Quality needs to be monitored, contamination needs to be controlled and the public should be made aware of where to rest and let children play during a day spent at the beach. To address these needs European and American scientists are planning to discuss the public health needs European and US scientists are meeting to discuss the public health risks when people use beach sand and beach water for recreation. This discussion and development of appropriate regulations for beach water and beach sand are the objectives of an international conference in Lisbon, Portugal scheduled to take place in September of 2014. The final report of this conference will be sent to the major regulatory and advisory agencies (USEPA, WHO, European Union) for possible implementation.

Dr. Brandão will deliver a public seminar for WRRC on the 25th at3:00 PM in Marine Science 100 on the UH Manoa campus.

For further information call/email Philip Moravcik at 808-956-3097, morav@hawaii.edu

Study of the Impact of Beach Nourishment on Indicator Bacteria Concentrations in Beach Sand and Water Column.

Dr. Marek Kirs, Dr. Roger Fujioka, Philip Moravcik, Water Resources Research Center

In response to shoreline erosion of one-to-two feet per year at stretches of Waikiki Beach the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) undertook to replenish the sand at the beach starting in the Spring of 2012. Some 24,000 m3 of sand were pumped from deep water 1,500 feet offshore and distributed to eroded areas resulting in an average increase of beach width of 12 m. During this activity WRRC researchers Kirs, Fujioka and Moravcik conducted a study to evaluate the impact of the beach nourishment on indicator bacteria levels in beach sand and water. Concentrations of total coliforms, E.coli, enterococci, C. perfringens and vibrios were determined at two sites impacted by the nourishment and at an adjacent control site which did not receive new sand.  Concentrations of indicator bacteria in the beach water and in new foreshore (middle of the beach) and nearshore (wave runup zone) sand were below or near the detection limit for all the tested organisms, except vibrios. None of the water samples collected exceeded Hawaii recreational water quality standards.

The milky sediment plume associated with the nourishment was composed predominantly of inorganic particles sized roughly 10-80 µm.  Indicator bacteria concentrations in the foreshore and nearshore sand samples as well as in the water samples collected from the control site were not significantly different from those observed at the replenished section. Concentrations of enterococci and C. perfringens spores were significantly elevated (P<0.001, α=0.05) in the backshore sand samples collected near the vegetation line in comparison to near and foreshore sand samples.  The study results indicate that soil can be an important source of indicator bacteria in backshore sand, and that any factor that increases transport of soil to the beach (narrow beach, bare soil at the edge of the beach, high foot traffic) can increase counts in the beach sand. Most importantly our study indicates that the beach replenishment did not affect microbial water quality at Kuhio Beach.

WRRC Delegation visits Washington

The annual National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR) meeting was held February 10 through 12 in Washington DC.  NIWR is the umbrella organization under which the state water centers operate. The meeting was attended by Gordon Grau, and Aly El-Kadi, WRRC’s Interim Director and Associate Director, respectively, and Darren Okimoto, and Darren Lerner, from Sea Grant. The meeting included discussing operational aspects of the Centers within NIWR, cooperation between NIWR and USGS, and the current efforts to upgrade the NIWR web site. The meeting also included presentations by federal agencies such as NIFA and EPA. Our group also visited Hawaii’s Congressional leaders and their staff. That included Senator Hirono (and staff Patrick Devney, Special Projects Director), Senator Schatz, and Anthony Ching, Senior Legislative Assistant of Representative Gabbard.  During the meetings, Aly presented a brief description of the history and research activities of WRRC and the contributions to solving Hawaii’s water and environmental problems and meeting federal regulations. Current and future water related problems were also presented. He also described the need for a sustainable support for the Center towards becoming the Water Center of Hawaii.  The group discussed the participation by the Senators in the forthcoming “Ascent” meeting organized by Sea Grant, with active participation by WRRC. A focus water session will be included in the meeting. The delegates and their staff seem supportive and we will continue future contacts.  Aly’s trip was cut short by a day due to a snowstorm hitting the DC area. He was lucky to escape the storm, which paralyzed the capital and closed airports.


New WRRC Research Proposal to Examine Leaching of Aerially Distributed Rodenticides

Rodents in natural areas of Hawaii are a threat to native birds, invertebrates and plants. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in cooperation with the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and other state and federal agencies, is trying to control rodent populations in the mountainous areas of Hawaii using anticoagulant baits. Three different bait products containing three different chemicals as active ingredients (chlorophacinone, diphacinone, and brodifacoum) are being considered. Because of their toxicity, concerns exist about the migration of these chemicals to ground water.

The baits are to be aerially distributed over large areas which can include diverse soil types with differing physical and chemical properties. Potential leaching of the chemical compounds to ground water can be predicted after carefully reviewing the pesticide properties, physico-chemical properties of the soils, and the potential recharge in an area. This prediction can be coupled with uncertainty analyses to prepare a screening tool to classify compound s as leachers, non-leacher s, or having significant uncertainties. Spatial analyses and calculations can be carried out on ArcGIS platforms importing required databases so that a visual representation with geographic information can be readily displayed. The classification of a chemical as a leacher or non-leacher will be based on its leaching/attenuation behavior relative to a group of chemicals which have already been detected in ground water in Hawaii.


The overall objective of the project is to conduct a Tier-1 (preliminary) screening assessment of the leaching potentials of the three chemicals being considered for use. In order to achieve this goal, the following procedure will be adopted.

Spatial data for the soils and recharge in formats usable in the ArcGIS platform will be obtained from existing state and federal data sources. The mean and standard deviation values for soil parameters (e.g., bulk density, organic carbon content, porosity, etc) as well as the recharge to the overlying the mapped soil polygons for the screening model will be prepared in ArcGIS. Mean values of the organic carbon partition coefficient (Koc) and the half-lives of the three chemicals are needed to estimate attenuation of the chemicals as they travel through the soil. Attenuation gives the amount of the applied mass that is retained within the soil at a given reference plane below the root zone. A first-order uncertainty analysis (FOUA) will be conducted to examine the spread of the mean value for each of the chemicals. Based on the mass attenuated and the degree to which the travel of the chemicals to ground water will be retarded, the chemicals will be classified as likely leacher, non-leacher, or one with significant uncertainties.

The following specific tasks will be carried out:

Task 1. Update the soils database to be used in a GIS platform for all natural areas of Hawaii to the mapped depths.

Particularly, we will look for the textural properties of the soil, water holding capacity, organic carbon content, bulk density, particle density, and other relevant information such as hydraulic conductivity and other water transmitting properties. Data for each soil polygon will be screened to examine missing information. Appropriate extrapolation will be carried out for missing information in our study area.

Task 2. Chemical properties database.  The USFWS will provide the principal investigator (PI) with available registration data for the three compounds used in the rodent baits. The PI will search literature for the fate and transport data of these compounds in terms of their organic carbon partition coefficient and half-life values. In addition, the volatility values for the compounds will be obtained from literature and previous field studies. The mean and standard deviation for these properties will be included in the database. The database will contain the properties of a range of chemicals used in Hawaii. In addition, ground water monitoring data for occurrence of selected chemicals will be checked from the databases of the Hawaii Department of Health. The USFWS is also interested in knowing the fate of selected metabolites of the three primary compounds. The same procedure will be followed to assess their leachability (provided appropriate chemical property data are available).

Task 3. Calculation of modified attenuation factors and preparation of a leachability index. The modified attenuation factors for these three chemicals and selected metabolites (such as diphenylglycolic acid) will be compared against those in the database.

If a compound is less attenuated and shows similar properties as chemicals already established as leaching based on monitoring data, then the chemical will be classified as a “likely leacher”. If the compound has similar properties to the group of chemicals that have not been shown to leach, then it will be classified accordingly.

Team of Microbiologists from South Florida U. visits with WRRC

WRRC recently hosted Dr. Daniel V. Lim, Dr. Elizabeth A. Kearns, and researcher Sonia Magaña from the Advanced Biosensors Laboratory at the Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The Florida researchers were in Honolulu to share with WRRC microbiologist Marek Kirs an innovative system of concentrating microorganisms in large volumes of water for analysis.

Rapid, reliable monitoring of water resources for microorganisms can help reduce public exposure to potentially harmful pathogens. Unfortunately, the success of monitoring programs is limited by the dilution of microbial pathogens in very large volumes of water. Dilution lowers the levels of pathogens below the detection limit of currently-available methods and limits the utility of standard methods for detection of indicator organisms. Sample concentration helps overcome this limitation and enables more representative sample collection of randomly distributed pathogens. The U.S. EPA recommends a toolbox of standard methods to monitor fecal indicator bacteria (FIB), enterococci and E. coli, as part of its recreational water quality criteria. However, the relationship between indicators and microbial pathogens remains questionable, especially in subtropical and tropical environments like Hawaii. Monitoring water directly for pathogens is expensive, labor intensive and unreliable because of the low concentrations of pathogens in large bodies of water.

Dr. Lim’s laboratory has developed a Portable Multi-use Automated Concentration System (PMACS) that rapidly concentrates microbial pathogens from large volumes (>10 liters) of water such as potable water, recreational water, irrigation water, cooling tower water, and produce-wash for subsequent microbial analysis using conventional and emerging technologies. The PMACS is a portable, field-deployable dead-end hollow fiber filter system that concentrates samples at a rate of up to 4 liters/minute for recovery into a small volume (200 to 400 ml) retentate.

E. coli O157:H7, enterococci, Bacillus spores, Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts, MS2 bacteriophage, and other types of microorganisms can be concentrated from water sources, enabling detection of microbes that may be missed by standard methods. The resulting concentrated samples are compatible with analysis by a wide range of detection methods from culture to metagenomics. The PMACS protocol not only provides a larger, more representative sample for microbial testing, but also rapidly concentrates pathogens to significantly reduce the time from sample collection to specific pathogen identification and quantification.

While in Honolulu the researchers delivered a seminar in which they described the development and application of their system. They also met with representatives of the City and County of Honolulu and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

They left a PMACS unit on loan with WRRC’s microbiologist Marek Kirs to run some tests.