State awaiting waste bacteria results

Hawai‘i Department of Health officials collected water samples yesterday morning from the ocean near the site of Princeville’s accidental wastewater discharge and expect results of a bacteria test today, according to Watson Okubo of the Clean Water Branch.

Okubo said that his department could receive preliminary results as early as yesterday afternoon, but that full conclusive results take around 24 hours due to time spent incubating samples.

Some 1,500 gallons of wastewater escaped when a lift station briefly lost power Tuesday morning.

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative spokesperson Shelley Paik said in a Tuesday afternoon phone message that power had been out for between an hour and an hour and a half due to an underground fault.

Heavy vegetation in the valley may have prevented much of the waste from reaching a stream and, subsequently, the ocean.

Crews were able to disinfect the land area near the station Tuesday, but could not do the same for the ocean.

“You let nature take its course in the ocean because disinfecting there will do more harm than good,” Okubo said. “That amount of water will dissipate quite rapidly. As long as it’s nice and sunny, bacteria gets killed very quickly.”

Okubo estimated that any bacteria in the ocean would be effectively neutralized within three to five days, and that his staff would continue collecting and testing water samples each day until bacteria levels return to normal.

In the interim, signs have been posted in the area and the public is advised to stay clear until safety can be assured.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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