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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Visitors trickle back into Waikiki waters

By Eloise Aguiar and Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writers

As the sun was setting yesterday, many people walked along Waikiki Beach, but few went in the water.

"We didn't worry today because they took the signs down and they took the tests and everything and they said it was fine," said Casey Kelly, 17, of Carmel, Ind.

For the first time since last Wednesday, warning signs were removed along Waikiki beaches.

Kelly is visiting Hawai'i with friend Eric Henning and Henning's father and stepmother. Kelly said they did heed the warnings Monday and stayed out of the water, and visited the North Shore instead. But they returned to Waikiki yesterday.

"We had no fear of being in the water," Henning said.

The state Department of Health closed Waikiki beaches because there was too much bacteria in the water. The break in a sewage main that began March 24 spilled 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal, which contaminated beaches from the canal to the Moana Surfrider Hotel.

The bacteria levels dropped enough to remove the contamination signs yesterday in Waikiki, based on samples taken Sunday and Monday, said DOH spokesman Kurt Tsue.

"It looks like all around the bacteria levels are going down," Tsue said. "Nature is repairing itself."

However, warning signs remain at Magic Island and surfers are warned to stay out of these surf spots: Ala Moana Bowls, Rock Pile, Kaisers, Fours, Threes and Pops.

Tsue said the numbers were low enough for the state to remove the signs, but another test is required.

"Waikiki looks like it's almost back to normal," he said. "They will test one more day (today) just to be safe."

Lauren Heinsar, 16, of Alberta, said she swam off Waikiki just about every day since she got to Hawai'i a week ago. But when the signs went up, she swam near the police substation because she heard that the water was cleaner there.

"I wasn't too worried about it. I thought if I rinsed off well after it I would be fine," said Heinsar, who is traveling with her parents. "I saw a lot of people going in even with the signs there. It didn't stop a lot of people."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com and Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.