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Drink up, Lihue

LIHUE — Finding a refreshing beverage, or food for that matter, was no easy task Friday in Lihue.

“It’s a no school day, a no Jamba day,” said Butch Keahiolalo, who had hoped to treat his two daughters, Sailor and Liliwai, to Jamba Juice.

When asked if she was disappointed to find the smoothie establishment’s doors closed, nine-year-old Sailor said, “Oh yea, big time!”

Liliwai, 8, was equally bummed. The two girls were forced to settle for soft drinks from nearby Longs Drugs.

“I hope they open by the weekend,” Sailor said. 

She got her wish.

A Boil Water Advisory for Lihue and Hanamaulu issued Thursday by the Department of Water was lifted mid-day Friday. Until then, however, it caused area businesses to keep their doors shut and four schools canceled their first day of classes as a precaution.

Stephanie Ano, real estate manager at Kukui Grove Center, said Friday morning that four businesses at the shopping center — Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Genki Sushi and Taco Del Mar — were still waiting for the green light from DOW.

Nearby Taco Bell and Burger King also closed up shop — their drive-thru lanes roped off. Along Rice Street, restaurants posted signs out front apologizing to customers. Others, including McDonalds, remained open but warned customers at the door that they would not be serving coffee, soda and other beverages.

Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said that of the roughly 690 food establishments on Kauai, 130 were impacted by the advisory. After hearing that many hadn’t received the notification, DOH food inspection staff began going door to door Thursday night and Friday morning.

“It was just to make sure they were aware of the advisory that went out,” Okubo said. 

The problem occurred Wednesday night while DOW contractors were working on waterline improvements to Hoomana Road. When department personnel turned the line back on, it disturbed the existing system, creating a brown water and air mixture that was released into neighboring service areas, according to a release.

The first notification was sent out around 10:30 that evening. 

On Thursday morning, DOH assisted DOW by collecting water samples. The results of those tests were received around noon Friday indicating the water was safe and free from microbial contamination, and the advisory was immediately cancelled, according to a release.

“All customers in the Lihue and Hanamaulu area now have normal water service that may be used for all water purposes,” DOW wrote. 

The department apologized to customers and said the Boil Water Advisory served as a precautionary measure after brown water was reported in various areas. Approximately 3,280 customers were affected.

“Immediate measures are underway to prevent future incidents,” DOW said.

By 1 p.m., many restaurants began opening up to island residents.

Katie Gallo, spokeswoman at Wilcox Hospital, said the facility did not treat anyone with a brown water related sickness, and was able to resume business as usual Friday.

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

Classes are slated to begin Monday.

Several local residents expressed frustration on the DOW’s Facebook page that they were not notified of the situation in a timely manner.

“It’s Friday morning and no word yet on the test results. It disturbs me that the warnings about this were so slow and weak in coming out. I never heard an official warning and had to call the Police and Water Dept. myself to find out what’s going on,” wrote one man. “This is a PA catastrophe that only lacks hundreds of people going to the ER for treatment. The County should be ashamed of their inept response.”

In addition to a press release, the county issued a Connect CTY mass notification Wednesday around 10:30 p.m. The initial Do Not Drink Water Advisory, along with the update Boil Water Advisory, was also posted on the county’s and DOW’s websites and Facebook pages.

Sharon Lasker, director of marketing at the Regency at Puakea, said the retirement and assisted living facility was able to jump on the situation early and began boiling cooking water and distributing bottled water to all of its 89 residents.

“We’re making due,” she said mid-day Friday. “It’s an inconvenience. It’s not the end of the world.”

For information or questions, call the Department of Water at 245-5442.

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