KAHALUU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Caution signs surround the Kahaluu Lagoon warning people not to swim or wade into the water.
"We have extraordinarily high bacteria levels which could indicate human sewage," the Department of Health's Gary Gill said.
He said pathogens in that sewage can make people sick.
"There's a reasonable concern that that sewage that's going into the lagoon and ultimately into (Kaneohe) Bay is coming from nearly 600 cesspools immediately surrounding the area," he said.
He said the bacteria level is just below what was found in the Ala Wai Canal during a massive sewage release in 2006.
Fisherman Junior Galang is upset the public is just now being warned.
"Everybody's coming out with their kids, fishing, catching the fish, eating them without knowing that there's bacteria in the water," he said.
A Health Department press release said "sewage contains pathogens that may cause gastroenteritis, hepatitis A, conjunctivitis, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, and cholera."
"We don't know if it's animals, and we don't know whether it's humans. But whatever it is it's harmful bacteria for the people," Kahaluu Neighborhood Board chairperson Flora Obayashi said.
Tests show the bacteria is highest in the lagoon. But it's also in the channel where the Keahiakahoe Canoe Club launches for practices.
"It's a huge concern. We're definitely going to have to make some adjustments in how we run our training from this point," club president Stan Dickson said.
Gill said a normal bacteria level can reach 100 on a scale.
"Now we're finding it in the thousands in the lagoon," he said. "If in fact the problem can be linked to all of these cesspools in the area, then it's going to take a number of years to upgrade those cesspools over time."
The Health Department will continue water sampling and searching for the bacteria's source.