Health department: stay out of brown water

Kaua‘i remains surrounded by brown water, both out to sea and inland, and, just like those in cold climes warn people against eating yellow snow, state Department of Health officials are warning residents and visitors to stay out of that brown water, for many reasons.

These waters and flooded areas may contain chemical pollutants or harmful micro-organisms (pathogens) from overflowing cesspools or septic tanks, as well as animal feces washed into streams and storm drains, state DOH officials said in a press release.

County of Kaua‘i and DOH officials have been posting warning signs by waters known to have been contaminated by sewage spills and certain other water pollution, but people should be careful about going in the waters even if no signs are present.

Direct contact with contaminated water may sicken or infect people, particularly if they swallow it or get it in their mouths, eyes, noses, cuts or scrapes.

If people cannot avoid contact, they should protect themselves by wearing rubber boots or shoes, gloves and clothing, keeping cuts and scrapes dry and protected; rinsing off as soon a possible; and cleaning skin with soap and lots of clean water.

If people become sick or infected, they should check with a healthcare provider for evaluation and tell him or her about the exposure to contaminated water.

In sewage-spill and storm water events, DOH officials seek to have warnings and advice issued first, and do not wait for bacteria-testing results.

The simplest precautions are to avoid contact with murky, brown, flood, storm, or standing water, and clean up well if you cannot avoid it.

For information on current water warnings on each island, log on to the DOH homepage at www.hawaii.gov/health, and click on Contaminated Water Postings.

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