Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Sunday, June 6, 2004

Cylinder found on shore
likely is liquids container

Question: In April, my son was clearing brush along Kaneohe Bay in the Heeia area and found a cylinder, with remnants of yellow or orange paint, in the roots of a mangrove tree. It appears to have been in the water for some time. It is 43 inches long, weighs 10 pounds, is 5 1/2 inches in diameter and rounded at each end. It is well-made of stainless steel and well-reinforced with bands and rods around it along its length. It appears empty, has a hook on one end and a screw plug in the other. I am curious to know what it is and what to do about its disposal. It doesn't seem like something one would put out with the trash.

Staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that a cylinder found along Kaneohe Bay in April was a low-pressure container for holding liquids.

Answer: We first showed the photos you provided to the U.S. Coast Guard, which helped us identify a "rocket-like" object, found at Kaena Point earlier this year, as a marker buoy used in search-and-rescue operations (Kokua Line, March 31).

When no one there could identify the object, the photos were circulated among other military and government agencies, including the state Department of Health's Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office.

In turn, Terry Corpus, an environmental health specialist with the office, circulated the photos among his contacts and resources, including some on the mainland. Corpus also is the Health Department's State On-Scene Coordinator for incidents involving chemical or oil spillsreleases.

Finally, staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said they had determined what it was: The cylinder is believed to be a low-pressure container for holding liquids, Christopher Weden, of the EPA's Region 9 Emergency Response Section, told Corpus.

There was earlier speculation that it was a hydraulic accumulator, which stores fluids under pressure.

But in an e-mail to Corpus, Weden said the cylinder likely was not a hydraulic accumulator because of its low-pressure holding capacity.

"I have seen similar cylinders used to hold HF (hydrogen fluoride or hydrofluoric acid), but it is unlikely given the hook and empty feel that it contains anything but sea water at this point," Weden told Corpus.

Since an exact identification hasn't been made, it can't be said for certain what the cylinder was used for, Corpus said.

There are a wide variety of uses for hydrogen fluoride in many different industries, he said, such as the chemical, aluminum and petroleum refining industries.

However, Corpus said he believes the cylinder was "found, modified and utilized by a fisherman," adding that "you'll be amazed how crafty and creative (experienced fishermen) are."

Because the cylinder is not likely to still contain the original gas, and is also lacking a valve to indicate it is under pressure or vacuum, it is not believed to contain any hazardous substance.

Therefore, "this would be considered a solid waste, and could be disposed of as household waste," said Grace Simmons, supervisor for the Department of Health's Hazardous Waste Section.

"Precautions should, however, still be taken when handling the cylinder because of the rusty hook-like piece on the end," she said.

Both Corpus and Coast Guard spokeswoman Erica Taylor said that if anyone finds something unusual or suspicious in the water, call 911.

"From there, there are procedures that are followed," Corpus said.

An assessment will be done by the first responder and appropriate agencies contacted.

In this case, since your son took the cylinder home, "it's pretty much out of everyone's jurisdiction," Taylor said. Once someone takes possession of an object, they "pretty much accepted responsibility for anything that could happen."

That's why, Taylor said, "we ask that if anyone finds anything on land or sea that is suspicious -- they don't know what it is -- that they leave it where it's at and report it to local authorities to investigate."

Hawaii Kai work on hold

It turns out that work to repair and extend the sand-retention groin at the entrance to the Hawaii Kai Marina in Maunalua Bay does not have the required certification from the state Department of Health to proceed.

Work has been halted temporarily.

The Department of Health was not aware of the length of the extension nor of the schedule for its construction when we were told that all permits were in place .

The June 1 Kokua Line reported that the Hawaii Kai Marina Community Association had contracted American Marine to both repair the groin -- made up of sandbags -- and extend it by 50 feet. Health officials thought the work mainly involved repairing sandbags.

The association had already stopped work by the time the Health Department notified it on Thursday that it no longer had a valid certification for the extension.

The sandbags initially were put in place under a Water Quality Certification, but that expired on May 10, explained Joanna Seto, environmental engineer with the Health Department's Clean Water Branch.

The repair of the bags can be done without the certification, but workers are required to prevent any water pollution, as well as have "appropriate monitoring," she said.

Before it can extend the groin, "the association needs to first secure a written clarification on the Department of Army permitting requirements from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," Seto said.

Based on that information, the Health Department will then "determine whether issuing a new Water Quality Certification for the sandbag extension is viable."

Jaap Suyderhoud, president of the marina association, said the association took over maintenance of the groin about six weeks ago and was not aware that the Water Quality Certification had expired.

An application has been submitted for a new certification, he said.

There is an existing permit from the Corps of Engineers, good until 2012, for maintenance of the sand groin.

However, that permit was issued to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which had been in control of the water area in question, and had not been transferred to the community association, said Farley Watanabe, program manager with the corps' regulatory program.

The association needs to get that permit transferred to satisfy the corps' requirements, he said.

It's expected to take a couple of months for everything to be in order, so work is not expected to resume at least until August, Suyderhoud said.


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