'Contaminated Water' signs taken down on Leeward Oahu beaches - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

'Contaminated Water' signs taken down on Leeward Oahu beaches

Ken Williams Ken Williams
Craig Landis Craig Landis

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

NANAKULI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A week and a half after heavy rains swept contaminated floodwaters and medical waste into the ocean, the State Health Department authorized the removal of signs warning of contaminated water from Leeward Oahu beaches.

The action was announced Sunday afternoon. The signs began coming down almost immediately after the announcement.

Signs were posted from Kahe Point to Ko Olina after contaminated water and refuse, including sterilized medical waste, was swept from the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill by heavy rains and runoff the night of January 12-13. Resort guests and the public were kept away from the Ko Olina lagoons.

Before the signs came down, the only people on the beaches at Ko Olina were workers who walked back and forth, looking for any debris on the sand. It's something they've done every day since the flooding.

"We have made sure that all of the trash has been picked up daily and to this day." Ko Olina resort manager Ken Williams said. "You won't see any trash right now."

At the Tracks surf spot in Nanakuli, the water was much cleaner than it was a week ago. Waves were smaller, but still attracted surfers, who ignored the lone warning sign stapled to a tree stump in the parking lot.

At White Plains Beach, which was closed a week ago, surfers and swimmers were back in the water. Kapolei resident Craig Landis was one of those who weren't able to get to the beach last week. "With word of medical waste in the water, I didn't really want to come out and chance it," Landis said, "but as you can see it's really beautiful today."

Even though health officials have authorized removal of the warning signs, there's still concern that the waste spill even happened in the first place. "It's very disheartening, and you only wonder if its a sign of more things to come, and hopefully the powers that be will take the proper action to make sure that we don't have these types of things again," Landis said.

"The situation is unfortunate," said Williams. "The damage that it did to our coastline and beaches today, and maybe tomorrow, is still a real problem."

The Honolulu City Council's joint Committee on Safety, Economic Development and Government Affairs and Public Works and Sustainability will hold a discussion about the beach waste from the recent rains. The hearing is scheduled  for 9 a.m. Monday in the committee meeting from at Honolulu Hale.

The health department also said that any discovery of medical waste, including syringes, needles, plastic tubing, blood vials and intravenous bags should be immediately reported to Waste Management, which operates the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, at 668-2985.

Meantime, by 1:30 p.m. Sunday, the sign at Tracks had been removed, leaving only four staples on the tree stump in the parking lot.

Previous story: Bacteria levels "very high," Leeward beaches still closed

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