Honokohau Valley residents advised to boil their water

The Maui News

About 50 to 60 people on 13 water meters in Honokohau Valley were advised Tuesday by the county Department of Water Supply to boil their water before drinking and other uses, such as cooking or brushing their teeth, due to possible E. coli bacterial contamination.

The potential contamination, which showed up in a regular water sample test, is limited to the valley, county spokesman Rod Antone said Tuesday. The system is not connected to any other areas.

The water comes from a Kapalua Water Co. well and is a groundwater system, said Jan Inouye-Ogata, water department administrative officer, on Tuesday.

There have been no reports of health issues related to the contamination, Antone said. E. coli is found in waste of warm-blooded animals, and its presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes, Inouye-Ogata and Antone said. Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other symptoms and may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems, Inouye-Ogata said.

The department does not know the cause of the contamination and is investigating, she said. The source and system will be retested, and the problem could be the result of a sampling error, Antone said. However, if the bacteria shows up again in the testing, the department will trace the contamination to the source.

“We cannot speculate as to what may, or may not have happened,” Antone said.

An E. coli contamination has not occurred in the Honokohau Valley system before, Antone said. Possible causes of bacterial contamination include increased runoff entering a drinking water source, such as during heavy rain; a break in a waterline or a problem in the water treatment process, Inouye-Ogata said.

She said that the department is increasing the chlorine levels while it looks for the source of the contamination, discovered during the second to two monthly tests of the system. The department hopes to have the problem resolved within the next two days.

In the meantime, the department has posted a boil-water advisory, Inouye-Ogata said. Residents should boil drinking water for 1 minute and let it cool before consuming it or use bottled water. Boiling water as instructed will kill bacteria and other organisms that may be present in the water.

Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation until further notice, Inouye-Ogata said.

A potable water tanker will be parked on Honokohau Valley Road for residents, she said.

For more information or to report a water-related problem, call the department’s 24-hour hotline at 270-7633.

General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available by calling the Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791.

Department officials were hand-delivering boil water notices to residents in the remote area and asking residents to pass the word.