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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 12:49 p.m., Thursday, January 8, 2004

Swimming OK'd for Kailua Beach

By Robbie Dingeman and Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writers

Swimmers could go back in the water at popular Kailua Beach this morning without taking a health-related risk linked to water pollution from last week's heavy rains, the Health Department said.

After five days of advising people to stay out of the water at what some have rated one of the world's best beaches, state health officials today ordered removal of signs warning the public that the water had been contaminated by sewage spills and urban runoff.

Environmental engineer Libby Stoddard, of the state Health Department's Clean Water Branch, this morning said that the state received laboratory results that allowed them to drop the warnings.

Stoddard said bacteria levels from samples taken Tuesday at 10 a.m. showed a big change in the water quality.

Since the rain stopped Saturday, city lifeguards at Kailua Beach have warned beachgoers about the health risks of swimming even as the sunny weather make the water inviting to residents and visitors.

Capt. Kevin Allen, who oversees lifeguards along the Windward coast, said people at the beach were "ecstatic" to get the word that it was safe to go back in the water. The contaminated water signs leave the lifeguards advising people to stay out of the water, but lacking the power to ban them from the water.

"The ocean is a public place," Allen said. "The best that we can do is inform the people of the hazards that might be out there."

He said it was tougher this time because days of beautiful weather that followed the week of heavy rains.

An avid surfer and paddler, Allen hasn't been in the ocean since the storm. He said his policy is to stay out of the water after storms ÷ even without sewage spills — because of the pollution from runoff. "You're better safe than sorry," he said. "It's a good piece of advice. If we get heavy rains and the water is dirty brown, you shouldn't go in. You never know — it might be polluted."

Water samples take this week continued to show high levels of pollution from sewage spills and urban runoff at Wailupe Beach/ 'aina Haina, Honolulu Harbor and Ka'elepulu Stream/Enchanted Lake, so the warning signs stayed up there.

For the latest information about beaches and streams that are closed, call the state Health Department's Clean Water Branch at 586-4309.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2429. Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.