Tuesday, March 25, 2003

City dig starts at
old Waipahu dump

Tests reveal that hazardous levels
of toxins are not present in that area

By Diana Leone

The city was to begin digging up crushed household appliances today that were illegally buried at its former Waipahu Incinerator site.

The work comes after testing revealed that heavy metals, asbestos and dioxins are not present in hazardous levels in that area.

Test results on samples taken March 17 show that levels of arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, silver, asbestos and dioxin fall within the Environmental Protection Agency's standards for residential areas, said acting Director of Environmental Services Frank Doyle.

However, the testing did find unacceptable levels of some of the same contaminants at two other sites: where the incinerator's smokestacks used to be and in the Waipahu Ash Landfill nearby, where bricks from those stacks were buried illegally, Doyle said. He said he will confer with the state Department of Health's Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch on how to approach cleanup of those sites.

Although Doyle has the exact contamination levels at all the test sites, he said he would not release them yet because they could be misinterpreted. He said the contamination levels would be in a final consultant's report that will be made public. The city's consultant for the testing is Enviro Services and Training Center.

The EPA's contaminant standards for soil in residential areas are amounts that it believes would be safe over a 30-year constant exposure level, even for a child or other sensitive people, such as those with compromised immune systems, said Patrick Wilson, an EPA senior regional toxicologist.

The city has hired contractor Richard Lee to remove the crushed appliances, and city workers will assist, Doyle said. He said he hopes the job will be completed by Friday and that the workers will wear whatever protective clothing is recommended by the consultant.

Doyle said he was told there are 250 appliances buried at the site, however, there appear to be more. At an estimated 175 pounds per appliance, 250 appliances would weigh almost 22 tons.

On March 1, after a complaint to the state Department of Health triggered an investigation of the illegal burial, the city removed 30 tons of appliances and took them to the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.

Lawrence Kalilikane, the buyer for Hawaii Metal Recycling, said that in 2001 he saw "at least 200 to 300 tons" of appliances stockpiled at the Waipahu Incinerator site and would not be surprised if that is the amount buried there.

Doyle said he authorized the March 1 removal of appliances before soil testing because he believed that the area where the appliances were buried was not contaminated.

Tests conducted in December by Edward K. Noda and Associates showed that other areas near the former incinerator contain hazardous levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead.

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