Saturday, October 2, 2004

Ex-official faces
pollution charges

Former city supervisor Peter Kealoha Jr.
is charged with illegal waste disposal

More than three years after he allegedly ordered city employees to crush and bury 214 tons of junked household appliances near the closed Waipahu incinerator, a former city official faces criminal prosecution.

The state attorney general's Environmental Crimes Unit announced yesterday that it has served a penal summons on Peter Kealoha Jr., a former city disposal services supervisor, on 24 counts of disposing of solid waste without a permit.

Kealoha resigned from his job in June 2003 after the state Department of Health announced it would fine the city $542,459 for violating solid- and hazardous-waste rules at its Waipahu incinerator and landfill.

The fine amount, announced in May 2003, remains in negotiation between the city and the state Department of Health; it has not been paid.

City officials estimated last year that its cleanup bill, including shipment of hazardous materials to the mainland for disposal and hiring an environmental consultant, approached $500,000.

An internal city investigation found last year that Kealoha also ordered his employees to amass a pile of about 6,000 empty propane tanks at the Waipahu site and bury hazardous bricks and ash from defunct incinerator chimneys in a closed ash landfill nearby.

At the time of these offenses, disposing of solid waste without a permit was classified as a petty misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in prison or a fine of up to $25,000, said Bridget Palmer Holthus, a special assistant to the attorney general.

Since June 23, illegal disposal of more than 10 cubic yards of solid waste is classified as a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine up to $50,000.

Other cases announced yesterday by the Environmental Crimes Unit were:

» Benson Lee, owner of Hawaiian Steam Inc., and manager Buddy Costa, who face misdemeanor penal summons for disposing of solid waste without a permit. Hawaiian Steam contracted to haul and dispose of construction debris and other solid waste from June 2003 to May. Lee and Costa are alleged to have ordered their drivers to dump the waste at Onipaa Ranch without a permit.

» John T. King was indicted Aug. 10 on one count of knowingly allowing a water pollutant, soil, to enter Kaneohe Bay, in connection with construction of a home in 2002. He is alleged to have filled in a portion of a lagoon on his property with soil to extend his back yard and build a boat ramp.

» Jerry Souza and Michael Nueva were indicted Sept. 15 on one count each of knowingly allowing a water pollutant, a tarlike substance, to enter a drainage canal at Campbell Industrial Park.

Knowingly allowing a water pollutant to enter state waters is a Class C felony punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $50,000.

None of the men facing prosecution by the Environmental Crimes Unit could be reached for comment yesterday.

The Environmental Crimes Unit was established earlier this year as a joint effort of the attorney general, Health Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental crimes can be reported to the unit by calling 586-1240.



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