LAURIE AU / LAU@STARBULLETIN.COM
This site at Bellows Air Base in Waimanalo was once used by the Air Force as a landfill. The area, fenced off with signs warning of environmental hazards, has grass and ironwood trees covering the trash below. CLICK FOR LARGE
Funding for Bellows cleanup is requested
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono requested $2.5 million in funding to clean up a former landfill on Bellows Beach, siding with community members who protested an earlier proposal by the Air Force to leave the area as it is.
"We want to work together to find a way to get this cleaned up," Hirono said yesterday at a news conference at Bellows Beach. "From where I stand and where the community stands, in order for that to happen, we have to obtain some money."
It will take several months for the Committee on Appropriations to make a decision, said Francis Nakamoto, Hirono's senior policy adviser.
"We're hopeful," Nakamoto said. "Whether the request is approved depends on competing requests and the committee."
Hirono said she is working with the Air Force, Marine Corps and community members to locate other funding sources as well.
While the 1-acre site -- also called LF24 and Pier Dump -- poses no toxic threats to the public, the beach is slowly eroding. This could cause the 8,500 tons of trash underneath the surface to become loose in 30 to 50 years and end up in the ocean, said Todd Lanning, chief of the Environmental Restoration Program with the 15th Airbase Wing.
LAURIE AU / LAU@STARBULLETIN.COM
Following an outcry by Waimanalo residents, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono sought $2.5 million to clean up a former landfill on Bellows Beach. CLICK FOR LARGE
"The biggest concern is the safety concern if the ocean exposes the landfill," said Department of Health Deputy Director Laurence Lau. "Since it's a federal facility, they should take the lead and get the money on this."
The area, fenced off with signs warning of environmental hazards, has grass and ironwood trees covering the surface. However, underneath lies three to seven feet of trash typically found in landfills -- glass bottles, cans, metal, lumber, wire, cables and ash.
The site was used as a burn pit for trash from 1943 to 1945. The Air Force owned that section of the land; however, in 1999 the U.S. Marine Corps took over and is now responsible for possible cleanups.
The Air Force conducted three investigations of the former landfill from 1998 to 2004 and found that there was no ground-water contamination and that the chemical levels were below the Environmental Protection Agency's requirement for cleanup. It issued a Proposed Plan for No Action in January.
During a public comment period earlier this year, Waimanalo community members were outraged at the Air Force's plan and, along with the Department of Health, called for a cleanup.
"We weren't happy campers," said Waimanalo resident Andy Jamila Jr., who brings his grandchildren to play on the beach on the weekends. "We, the community, would like them to excavate and clean up the debris. This is going to be underwater one day."
As of right now there is no time line for funding or cleanup.
"The general consensus is that sooner is better than later," Hirono said. "As time goes by, it's going to cost more to clean up the site."