It's common to see beachgoers at Ala Moana Beach Park lathering up with soap or shampoo after exiting the ocean.
But under a pilot project through the Department of Parks and Recreation, it's now illegal to use such products when showering at the popular beach. Signs were posted early last month warning users not to use shampoo, conditioners or soaps under the threat of fines, imprisonment or both.
"At this point, we're just educating the public and we're asking for voluntary cooperation," said city spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke. "Police aren't going to be out there enforcing it."
The pilot project is part of the city's effort to comply with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, which requires preventing potentially toxic substances from entering the ocean. If the city fails to comply, the Environmental Protection Agency could levy stiff fines.
"When it comes to the number of people showering from sunrise to sunset, all that can add up over time," said Marvin Heskett, chairman of the Surfrider Foundation's Oahu Chapter. "We just like the fact that the city and county is aware of water quality issues and are helping to share that with the public."
Still, the new signs will take some getting used to. KITV4 observed several beachgoers lathering up with either soap or shampoo when taking a shower. Some park users, like Manoa resident Mike Ishoda, didn't see the signage.
"I didn't even notice it," said Ishoda. "They should put it at least by the shower, like post it above the shower so people can take notice."
"I think a few people are going to be kind of upset," added Kaimuki resident Kelsey-Ann Lundberg, "but in general I think it's a great idea to prevent some runoff into the ocean."
Unlike showers in homes or apartment buildings, water from outdoor showers at Ala Moana enters storm drains that lead directly to the ocean.
"That's why we have a wastewater treatment plant (and) that's why all of our homes are hooked up to that system. But at the beach park, it just kind of goes into the ocean," said Broder Van Dyke.
It's already illegal under City Ordinance 14-22.23 (a) to discharge pollutants into state waters, and the city will likely expand the pilot project at Ala Moana to other beach parks. The Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Environmental Services are seeking improvements to 70 park sites that could reduce the potential for runoff entering the ocean.
"As time goes on and more people learn about it and we roll out signs at more parks, then at some point in the future ... it'll be enforced," said Broder Van Dyke.
However, the new ban on soaps, shampoos and conditioners will have no impact on beachgoers who lather up with suntan oil or sunscreen and then enter the ocean or stand beneath a shower to cool off.
"I see a lot of suntan oil," said Ishoda. "You know all that oil, that film right above the water. So I think they should try and do something about that too."