Waikiki Beach declared safe for swimmers

Waikiki Beach
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Honolulu officials reopened Waikiki Beach to swimmers Wednesday afternoon, saying a series of water tests revealed bacteria levels to be at acceptable levels.

“We sampled over 20 locations from Kakaako Beach Park all the way to the Kapahulu end of Waikiki Beach,” said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of environmental health at the Hawaii Department of Health. “We sampled for both bacteria as well as physical parameters, and based on those results, the indication is the levels have come down dramatically from yesterday.”

Heavy rains on Oahu produced flooding Monday morning and caused what city officials on Wednesday described as a 130,000-gallon wastewater spill that poured into storm drains leading directly to the ocean. The volume was revised down from Tuesday, when officials said approximately 500,000 gallons of wastewater spilled.

City officials closed Waikiki and Ala Moana beaches along the South Oahu shoreline to swimmers and posted signs warning the public it was not safe to enter the ocean.

The warning signs were removed Wednesday afternoon from Waikiki and Ala Moana beaches, and lifeguards were no longer discouraging beachgoers from entering the ocean. However, a brown-water advisory remains in effect statewide due to stream runoff caused by heavy rains, and state officials are advising people to stay out of murky, brown water.

“The bacteria levels are high from the runoff from streams,” Lori Kahikina, the director of Honolulu County’s Department of Environmental Services, said of the brown ocean water regions. “We have fecal matter from animals, wild pigs, dogs, chickens, all of that comes down, and that’s what triggers the brown-water advisory.”

 Meanwhile, warning signs remain up near Ala Wai Boat Harbor and Kewalo Basin, as officials are monitoring the offshore water there, Kawaoka reported.

 “We still see high levels of bacteria in those areas,” he said.

 Matt Bailey, president and COO of Aqua-Aston Hospitality, said many guests staying at the company’s properties in Waikiki were frustrated by the destination’s beach closures, but the swimming restriction wasn’t hurting business.

 “We haven’t seen any impact on business from a cancellation standpoint or an early checkout standpoint,” he told Travel Weekly shortly before Honolulu officials reopened the beaches. “I think there are so many things to do in Waikiki that people will be a little understanding for a couple of days.”

 At a press conference Wednesday, Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO George Szigeti also indicated that travelers were not altering vacation plans.

 “Nobody’s canceling,” he said. “Everyone’s coming. We’ve ensured them that it’s going to be business as usual, and I think there will be minimal collateral damage.”

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