State OKs arsenic plan
High chemical levels are found on the site of a planned hotel
HILO » The state Department of Health has approved a plan to deal with higher-than-normal levels of arsenic in the soil at a planned hotel site near Hilo.
The plan will allow Keaau Hospitality Group to soon start building a 60-unit, two-story, wooden hotel at the 4.4-acre site next to a shopping center in Keaau, five miles south of Hilo, said company vice-president Bob Saunders.
The arsenic is believed to be a remnant from the period of 1920 to 1940, when it was used as an herbicide in sugar fields.
The plan calls for digging out soil to the depth of 1 foot in part of the property with higher contamination, said John Peard of the state Department of Health.
That soil will be buried in a hole in a piece of the property with less contamination.
The area with higher contamination would then be covered with a thick but permeable membrane and then covered with a foot of low-contamination soil.
Even if landowner W.H. Shipman Ltd. and developer Keaau Hospitality did nothing, the risk from the arsenic is very low.
Shipman President Bill Walter said he questioned authorities on that point. They said Americans have about a 33 percent chance of getting cancer during their lifetime. If no cleanup was done, and if a gardener worked on the land for 30 years, and if the gardener had bad cleanliness habits, his risk of cancer would increase only one ten-thousandth of a percent, authorities told Walter.
Peard said soil with arsenic has to be "ingested," eaten, to be a danger. Bad habits would include the gardener wiping his dirty hand on his mouth and eating sandwiches for lunch without washing his hands, Peard said.
Since guests will stay at the hotel only briefly and not be involved in gardening, their risks will be far lower.
Walter said sale of the site to Keaau Hospitality is expected to be complete in about two weeks.
Saunders said obtaining financing will follow.
The wooden building style will allow the hotel to match its surroundings and will put it in a price class that Saunders described as "affordable hospitality." The hotel will be operated by a national chain, but Saunders was not ready to name the company, he said.