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State health officials too slow and vague with brown-water warnings, group says

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:01 a.m. HST, Dec 10, 2013

LIHUE » Advisories warning Kauai residents about brown water that may contain hazardous substances should be issued faster and in more detail, according to an environmental group.

Carl Berg, project manager of Kauai Surfrider's Blue Water Task Force, said state brown-water warnings have not been timely or complete, The Garden Island reported.

"The real problem is the system isn't working," he said.

The state Department of Health Clean Water Branch in the last month has issued two brown-water advisories for Kauai. The advisories urged people to stay out of floodwaters and stormwater runoff because of possible "overflowing cesspools, sewer manholes, pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, pathogens, chemicals and associated debris."

Such material can lead to diseases.

"It is important because there's a lot of stuff that comes out with the brown water," said Watson Okubo, monitoring and analysis section chief of the branch. "We always tell (people), ‘If the water is brown, stay out.'"

The agency issued an advisory last week after Kauai rivers and nearshore waters had been chocolate brown for more than a day, Berg said. The advisory included nothing west of Nawili­wili despite torrential rain.

"First, they are quite often delayed, as much as 24 hours," Berg said. "And the second thing is that they don't necessarily cover all the areas that are being impacted by heavy rain and brown water."

Staff members are cautious about issuing warnings without verification, Okubo said.

Berg contends warnings should be sent out immediately and that health officials should not be conservative with them.

"You're never going to get slammed for erring on the side of caution," he said. "But you are going to get slammed if you never issue a major warning and there is an outbreak."

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palani wrote:
Compared to other coastal states, Hawaii comes up short in terms of regular water quality monitoring, but then, public perception of our "clean" beaches is enhanced by the lack of timely test results.
on December 10,2013 | 05:44AM
Readitnow wrote:
There is no need to test the brown water … it will always be bad for you. The permanent warning that people will remember is … "Sharks love to bite things in murky, brown water" End of story!
on December 10,2013 | 12:25PM
manakuke wrote:
Reported by departing visitors, the brown water extends almost 2 miles from the shore across the ocean.
on December 10,2013 | 05:50AM
leino wrote:
A lot of brown water is natural from a geological point of view. Most of the Islands in this archipelago have returned to the sea or are in the process of doing so. How to reduce what is in that brown water that is anthropological in origin needs to be examined more closely not just from a general health perspective but for the environment in general. Timely warnings are important but data [lab tests] leading to the specific causes may be more valuable. Also of significant value is educating the general public to always stay out of brown water as the correlation with coliform bacteria is well established.
on December 10,2013 | 06:10AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
We dump millions of gallons of lightly treated waste offshore every single day from the Honouliuli Treatment Plant. Just because its a mile and a half offshore and couple hundred feet deep doesn't change the fact we pour our cr@p into the ocean.
on December 10,2013 | 07:01AM
Macadamiamac wrote:
Since when have we become a nanny state? "The water's brown, mo betta no go out." Really?!? A wee bit of common sense should inform one. Shouldn't need a state agency or a greenie whistle-blower to tell you that stuff flows downhill, to the streams, to the rivers and to the sea; or are we so stupid, so poorly educated, so unaware?
on December 10,2013 | 07:16AM
Gonefishin wrote:
Macadamiamac: Exactly.
on December 10,2013 | 11:23AM
cojef wrote:
Growing up in the late 20's and early 30's on Kauai was unsophisticated and back then all they had was the Board of Health that didn't try to control your life. The plantation companies took charge of everything financial so there were no reason to worry about anything. Children acquired immunity from diseases through exposure to the natural elements. Remember getting boils a number of times just about kindergarten age. Of course we were bare-footed most of the time, even attended Kauai High School('44) bare-footed. Wore shoes only for proms or graduations and they were hand-me-downs. Talk about one-size-fit-all. Immunizations were hard to come by, and it was usually provided by the Territorial Board of Health. Back then we had honest politicians and the "Big 5" did things above board, don't care much for contemporary union dominated politics. Live on the mainland.
on December 10,2013 | 08:46AM
popaa wrote:
The warning for "brown water" is when get heavy rain up mauka. As far as I know, water runs downhill to the ocean. You still need somebody to warn you?
on December 10,2013 | 04:03PM
username_required wrote:
Carl Berg has his toilets labeled "Do Not Drink" on the rims and the seats, in case he has guests.
on December 10,2013 | 04:34PM
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