Waiahole water tests clean after bacteria contamination
Waiahole Valley tap water tested clean yesterday, clearing the way for Waiahole Elementary School to open Monday and ending a one-day warning that residents boil their drinking water.
"Up until now, we haven't had any problems," said Charlie Reppun, whose family is one of 140 homes or farms in the rural Windward Oahu valley that uses water from a system owned by the Housing and Community Development Corp.
The housing agency warned valley residents on Thursday that a routine monthly sample taken Tuesday tested positive for coliform bacteria, including E. coli, which indicates possible contamination by fecal material and the risk of illness.
Because the state Health Department tolerance for bacteria in drinking water is zero, the boil-water notice was required, said Stuart Yamada, chief of Safe Drinking Water Branch.
Samples taken Thursday tested clean in results released yesterday afternoon.
Based on those results, the state Department of Education announced yesterday that Waiahole Elementary, which postponed the start of school yesterday because of the water tests, would start on Monday.
Adrienne Gardner, a spokeswoman for the housing agency, downplayed the risk to residents. Since only one test showed bacteria, the problem could have been a contaminated sample bottle, she said.
No source of the contamination was found yesterday, Gardner said.
But Richard Garcia, president of the Waiahole-Waikane Community Association, said as many as 20 valley residents complained to him yesterday that they have had flu-like symptoms for up to two weeks.
"They didn't see a connection between their illness and possible contaminated water" until yesterday, when the housing agency's contractor, Doonwood Engineering, put notices about boiling water into valley mailboxes.
The state Health Department will continue to do extra monitoring of the system to ensure that it remains clear of bacteria, Yamada said.
Waiahole residents should flush their household pipes by running a tap farthest away from where water comes into their home for several minutes, Yamada said. If they have water filters, they should follow manufacturers' directions for replacement after possible contamination, he said.