Why no warning signs at Waimea Bay?

Swimmers are being urged to stay out of the water at a popular beach on Oahu’s North Shore because of possible contamination.

But we wanted to know what State Health Department officials are doing to get the word out.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Health issued a brown water advisory for Waimea Bay.

They say storm water run-off entered the bay, possibly contaminating the waters with overflowing cesspools and sewers, animal fecal matter and chemicals.

That can put people at risk of contracting a disease, like leptospirosis.

But when KHON2 went out to Waimea Bay, there were no warning signs, and beach goers were not aware the bay may be infested with bacteria.

Before KHON2 went out to Waimea Bay, Nestor Garcia was told by the spokesperson for the city’s Ocean Safety that dozens of people were seen in the afternoon swimming at the site where the public was advised to stay out of the water.

KHON2 had to be the one to tell people not to go where the health department says people in the past have contracted leptospirosis.

KHON2 read the advisory to two people – Alexis Jordan and Deja Foster – essentially telling people to stay out of the water if is no longer blue – but brown. The advisory says the sand berm that separates the bay from the river that flows from above Waimea was breached Wednesday afternoon, and the brown water in the river is now flowing into the ocean at the bay as well.

A witness says the berm was breached at about 1:40 Wednesday afternoon and shortly thereafter, the people at the city’s Ocean Safety were notified, and they notified the Department of Health, but no one has directly told people not to swim here.

“That’s not safe, that’s not safe to do that,” said Jordan, who with Foster, were seen recreating in the river.

Both are in the service assigned to Hickam Air Force Base.

It’s not safe because as the advisory stated, several people in the past have come down with leptospirosis after swimming here.

According to the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention, without treatment, this bacterial disease can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.

KHON2 did see a city sign that warned people not to swim, but that’s to keep people safe from rough ocean waters. There was no sign for the brown water advisory, nor was there a sign about the danger of possibly contracting leptospirosis.

Gary Gill, the Deputy Director of Environmental Health with the state Health Department said brown water advisories are sent to the media and are also posted on the Department’s web site.

When we asked them not everyone tunes in to the news or has access to a computer, Gill said “We do what we can. We can’t call everyone at home and tell them. It’s a common sense reminder, it’s what we do. So we anticipate that over time, people will get the message, that when the water if brown, just stay out of the water, as a precaution.”

For Foster and Jordan, this is the first time they’ve been to Waimea Bay. They found out the water is dirty, only after we showed them the advisory.

“It’s not sanitary – I’m going to throw up,” said Jordan. I asked Foster what her reaction was after reading the advisory.

“It’s a little scary – we’ve been in the water,” said Foster.

In he past, the city says warning signs about leptospirosis were posted whenever the water was brown at Waimea Bay.

KHON2 will follow-up with the health department officials on Thursday, to ask if they should take another look at how they issue advisories in the future.

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