comscore Utility crosses signals on dirty water's safety | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Utility crosses signals on dirty water’s safety

    Makiki resident Maile Kawamura and her family, including twins Katie, foreground, and Maddie, have depended on bottled water for two weeks because their tap water has been contaminated with high levels of iron.

Cloudy, brownish tap water is flowing through the pipes of a Makiki home following a recent water main break, frustrating resident Maile Kawamura.

As advised by the Board of Water Supply, Kawamura ran the water in the hope that it would eventually become clear, but that did not work. The brown shade has lingered for the past two weeks, forcing Kawamura and her family to rely on dozens of bottles of water to cook rice and make coffee and formula for their year-old twin girls.

“It’s been a pain and hassle to deal with,” she said.

Crew members were to excavate in front of Kawamura’s home on Mott-Smith Drive this morning to determine the cause of the problem.

A 4-inch water main broke Oct. 19 at 1644 Piikoi St., a block from Kawamura’s home. Normally, area residents observe cloudy tap water following a main break, but it dissipates within a couple of days.

Not so for Kawamura.

She continued to complain to the Board of Water Supply, which dispatched a chemist at least four times. The chemist, she said, informed her that levels of iron eight times higher than normal made the water unsafe to drink.

The figure the chemist referred to described the turbidity, or cloudy appearance, of the water, said Erwin Kawata, program administrator for water quality with the Board of Water Supply. The higher the number, the more cloudy or discolored the water appears.

Water samples at Kawamura’s home tested from level 1 to the highest level at 8.

But Kawata said the water is safe. “It doesn’t pose any health threats,” he said.

Board officials do advise residents not to drink discolored water if it makes them uncomfortable.

Kawata said there are no EPA standards regarding iron in drinking water, but secondary standards are in place for aesthetic reasons.

It is not uncommon for residents in homes with galvanized pipes to observe a slight cloudiness in the water, said Kawata.

While two homes in the neighborhood experienced some traces of turbidity, Kawamura’s is the only property with high levels. In the past two weeks, crew members flushed the water system several times.

“This is an extremely unusual case,” said Kawata.

Flushing the water system is the first attempt crew members made to resolve the problem, according to spokesman Kurt Tsue. The next step: excavation.

“In this case, (flushing) wasn’t helping,” he said. “That’s why we’re taking this additional step.”

Crew members will investigate whether the pipes are properly connected and whether any repairs are necessary.


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