Report of discarded car batteries was mishandled
A few months ago, I called the state Department of Health's Clean Water Branch to report an automobile battery in Manoa Stream near Koali Road. I was advised to call the city. I ended up talking to a machine and weeks later, no action was taken. I asked the Health Department why it was not more concerned about the battery in the stream, because I believe pollutants in a waterway is of federal interest. Again, I was advised to call the city. Something is just not right. Procedures should be publicized and adhered to by the responsible governmental agencies regarding the disposal of automobile batteries and other sources of hazardous material. In the meantime, there are several auto batteries at two sites along Koali Road, one with seven batteries, the other with three. These batteries have been there long before I called about the battery in the stream. At one of these sites, there is deposited what appears to be a compressed gas cylinder, which has been ignored by the city refuse people for many months. I've made several calls to the city agency, leaving my name, telephone number, and nature of my problem on the answering machine. I have not received a follow-up call from the city.
Answer: Apparently there was some miscommunication along the line with the Health Department.
The Clean Water Branch does not have any record of a complaint regarding an automobile battery in Manoa Stream along Koali Road, said branch chief Alec Wong.
He also said it is "not a normal practice" for the Clean Water Branch to advise complainants to contact the city directly regarding a complaint like this.
As he explained previously, his office first tries to determine jurisdiction when a complaint regarding water pollution is received, then refers the matter to the appropriate agency.
When jurisdiction can't be determined, the Clean Water Branch conducts its own field investigation, then "takes appropriate action to correct the issue."
If the investigation uncovers pollution issues other than water, the appropriate agencies will be contacted to take action, Wong said.
Once the initial investigation is complete, the complainant is contacted and given an update.
If complainants, when making a complaint, do not request any update, they may call the Clean Water Branch during normal business hours to ask for a progress report. Call 586-4309.
Regarding the auto batteries left elsewhere, the city Department of Environmental Services was alerted to pick up those along the road, while the Department of Facility Maintenance was alerted to check for those along the stream.
When there are seven batteries at one location, it's most likely that a business is dumping them, rather than an individual householder, said Suzanne Jones, the city's recycling coordinator.
That, in itself, is a big concern: "Just how much disrespect do people have for their community and for our environment, and why do they feel that others or government should clean up after them?" she said.
The problem of people improperly and irresponsibly dumping auto batteries along streams or roadways is difficult to address, Jones said.
"Our refuse workers are watchful and try to pick them up in separate vehicles whenever they can to get them off the road," she said. "But we must be cautious in how we communicate this to the public. A couple batteries can be managed, but if people start leaving them curbside because the city will get them, we have a problem. More than a few batteries requires special handling and permits for hazardous waste."
As she has explained before, auto batteries should be returned to the retailer whenever a new one is purchased.
Or they can be dropped off at any one of the city's Refuse Convenience storage sheds, where they are held until a battery recycling contractor picks them up, Jones said. They should not be left curbside with regular household trash.
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