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Heavy rains cause uptick in brown water advisories

By: Nick Ochs

9 December 2019

Four simultaneous brown water advisories have been declared statewide in Hawaiʻi.  Three islands are affected: Kauai, Oʻahu, and Hawaiʻi Island.

Recent rains have contributed to possible contamination of ocean water.  Earlier this year, rains on the island of Kauai in April the new U.S. record in rainfall, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy rains have resulted in higher levels of ocean water contamination, according to the Hawaiʻi Department of Health.

“I’m glad we have an agency that monitors bad ocean water, but honestly we seem to get a lot of these warnings.'', said beachgoer and University of Hawaiʻi student Alex Lilly.  Lilly said he recently avoided bodyboarding at a beach under a brown water advisory.

The CWB may be best known for advising beachgoers on areas that are possibly contaminated, but the branch also helps manage watersheds and regulate industrial and agricultural runoff.

The CWB currently manages 9 active polluted runoff sites, with 29 sites listed as completed on the CWB website. All 558 known watersheds in the state of Hawaiʻi are overseen by the CWB.

The Clean Water Branch System (CWB), a branch of the Hawaiʻi Department of Health responsible for issuing brown water advisories to the public, warns that flood debris may include health hazards both manmade and natural. Dead animals, feces, pathogens, pesticides or other chemical waste, and raw sewage are all hazards potentially in Hawaiʻi’s ocean waters today.

According to the CWB all brown tinted ocean water should be avoided, even if an advisory has not been officially declared.

Brown water advisories are the most common contamination warnings issued to swimmers in Hawaiʻi by the CWB. Since October 1st in the state of Hawaiʻi, there have been 23 brown water advisories issued. Beach advisories are the second most common contamination, which are most often for high bacteria counts. Less commonly, wastewater advisories are issued and are usually after a sewage spill. 12 beach advisories for high bacteria count issued and one sewage wastewater advisory have been issued since October 1st.

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Current brown water advisories are active for the following locations: Kalihiwai Beach, Kauai since December 3rd. Kualoa Beach Park, Oahu since November 26th. Hilo Bay, Hawaiʻi since November 25th. Wailupe Beach Park, Oʻahu since November 14th.

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