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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 8, 2006

Ghost beaches for good reason

Windward O'ahu beaches photo gallery

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

A couple at Kailua Beach Park didn't have the best view yesterday bacteria-infested waters where Ka'elepulu Stream empties into the sea.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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A warning sign is posted along Ka'elepulu Stream as its dirty waters continue to enter the ocean at Kailua Beach.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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A windsurfer took his chances in the waters off Kailua Beach Park yesterday. The Department of Health said contamination levels are dropping quickly at that beach, unlike at some Windward beaches.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Complete list of contaminated waters at www.state.hi.us/doh/

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WAIMANALO Karen Paprocki had heard about raw sewage spilling into the Ala Wai Canal before she left Indiana for a vacation on O'ahu.

What she hadn't heard about was smaller sewer spills caused by heavy rain that contaminated beaches all over the island.

So she was surprised yesterday when she and a group that included four children came to Waimanalo Beach, some 20 miles from Waikiki, only to find it empty of people and posted with warning signs. Lifeguards urged everyone to stay out of the water.

The contamination has been particularly jarring at Waimanalo, which has one of the most beautiful white sand beaches on the island. The area is popular with families with children and has body-surfing waves that everyone can enjoy. A lifeguard there said it might take a week before the water is clean.

On the Windward side, the waters were brown from Bellows Air Force Station to Waimanalo Beach Park, in some places all the way out to the reef. Lifeguards there said they have advised families against swimming in the water and they won't swim there except when duty calls.

Godfrey Tio and May Li, of Toronto, said they were hoping to be married on the beach today, but the water yesterday was disappointing.

"We've come all this way hoping we were going to see a beautiful tropical paradise," said Li, 26.

Another ghost beach was at Bellows, where bacteria counts remained high following the spill of partially treated and untreated wastewater at the Waimanalo Wastewater Treatment Plant March 31 and April 1.

The spill occurred after rain soaked the ground at the plant and flooded its entrance, submerging a manhole and causing an unknown amount of untreated wastewater to escape from the plant inlet.

On the following day, partially treated wastewater continued to overflow from saturated injection wells at the state-owned plant. Warning signs were posted along Bellows and Waimanalo beaches.

Meanwhile, Waikiki bacteria counts continue to go down but contamination remains high around some Windward waters, so the warning signs will remain, said Kurt Tsue, a Department of Health spokesman.

Overall, bacterial counts at Windward beaches have fallen, but counts might be dropping more slowly in Waimanalo because the sun is not out as much there.

However, there is some good news. Tsue said contamination levels at Kailua Beach Park are dropping quickly.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.