Water warning

LIHUE — By noon Thursday, Kauai Pasta’s doors were locked. The lights were off, and a sign apologized to customers for the inconvenience.

“Done for the day,” said Christina Banach, the manager on duty.

The problems at Kauai Pasta started Wednesday when the restaurant closed two hours early after the water shut off in the middle of the evening rush. When the water came back on, it was murky, according to Banach.

A “Do Not Drink Water Advisory” was issued around 10:30 that evening and a Boil Water Advisory is expected to remain in effect until at least today for customers in Lihue and Hanamaulu.

“The DOW is currently conducting tests for microbial contamination, and results of this test will be available Friday,” the department wrote in a release mid-day Thursday.

The situation affected about 3,280 customers, according to DOH. It caused area schools to cancel what would have been the first day of the 2014-15 school year today, and a number of restaurants, including Kauai Pasta and Sweet Marie’s Hawaii, had to close.

Upon receiving Thursday’s updated boil advisory, Kauai Pasta immediately discarded all ice from its ice machine and bought individual bags from nearby 7-Eleven. Soon after, around noon, Banach and others decided to close altogether.

“We all made the executive decision that it is easier and safer for everybody,” she said, adding they would have had to purchase hundreds of bottles of water to stay open through dinner.

“My workers are ecstatic because they get to enjoy the beach but I still have to be here.” 

Sweet Marie’s also closed shop by mid-day.

“I want to be safe,” owner Marie Cassel said. “I’m not going to go near any contaminated water.”

However, Cassel said she did not receive an advisory until mid-day Thursday, and was drinking from the tap at her restaurant all morning.

“I wouldn’t have opened at all today if I had known,” she said. “I don’t know what to think right now. And what do I look out for symptom-wise?”

The DOW said the mishap occurred Wednesday night while its contractors were working on a waterline improvement to Hoomana Road.

When DOW personnel turned the water back on, it disturbed the existing system and created a brown water and air mixture that was released into the neighboring service area.

DOW began flushing mains in the Lihue area Wednesday night to remove the brown water, it said.

Thursday’s advisory prompted the Hawaii State Department of Education to cancel the first day of school today for 3,500 students who attend Kauai High, Chiefess Kamakahele Middle, King Kaumualii Elementary and Wilcox Elementary. 

Kauai Area Complex Superintendent Bill Arakaki said in a release that the decision was made as a precaution to ensure the health and safety of students, teachers, administrators and support staff.

Kauai schools not located in Lihue and Hanamaulu were expected to open today on schedule. 

DOW spokeswoman Kim Tamaoka stressed that the boil advisory was issued as a precautionary measure. 

“If customers never saw brown water in their system they are probably OK,” she said. 

Kathy Clark, president and CEO of Wilcox Memorial Hospital, said the hospital was following all DOW recommendations, including boiling water for cooking and drinking, and was also distributing bottled water for patients and requiring that all hand washing be followed by an alcohol gel rinse. 

“We plan to continue these safety protocols until the Department of Water results are released,” she said in a statement. 

In addition to a press release, the county issued a Connect CTY mass notification Wednesday evening, according to county spokeswoman Sarah Blane. The advisory was also posted on the county’s website and Facebook page, as well as the DOW’s website and Facebook page.

Residents with noticeable brown water are advised to use the following procedure: flush outdoor water hoses and faucets until the water appears clean; when water is clear, flush for another 30 minutes; once water is clear, heat your water to a rolling boil for 1-3 minutes; and let water stand until cool, and water will be safe for use for drinking and cooking. 

DOW also recommends that residents and businesses with ice makers shut them off and discard all ice. Those with a water purification system are advised to shut it down to avoid clogging the system. 

Updates will be posted as new information becomes available on the DOW’s Facebook page, www.facebok.com/KauaiDOW, and the County of Kauai’s press release page on www.kauai.gov. Questions should be directed to 245-5455.

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Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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