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EPA funds to help detoxify sugar land


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POSTED: Monday, May 11, 2009

Kapolei resident Brent Buckley said he is glad the federal government is helping to fund a cleanup of former sugar cane land in West Oahu containing toxic chemicals from pesticides.

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“;They accumulate but they can be remediated,”; said Buckley, a professor at the University of Hawaii's tropical agriculture college and member of the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board.

As the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands prepares to develop thousands of homes, it is faced with finding a way to clean up an area where a sugar plantation mixed, loaded and stored pesticides off Palehua Road in East Kapolei.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced hazardous-substances grant funds will be used to clean up the 0.6-acre site, part of a larger plantation where sugar cane was grown from 1890 to 1994.

High concentrations of dioxins, volatile liquids and other chemicals associated with agricultural pesticides have been found in the soil, according to the agency.

The agency said $200,000 in federal funds will be released to construct what is called a geo-membrane liner with an asphalt or concrete cap over the site.

The site is within 404 acres on the Waikiki side of the proposed East Kapolei II development, projected to include 1,000 affordable housing units, said department spokesman Lloyd Yonenaka.

The department recently started developing East Kapolei I, and tentative projections are to begin the development of East Kapolei II in about a year, Yonenaka said.

The site was formerly used by tenant Oahu Sugar Co.

In 1995 the state Department of Land and Natural Resources assumed jurisdiction over the site and later transferred authority to the Hawaiian Home Lands Department. The department plans to develop 2,500 affordable single and multifamily homes, two schools and three parks.

As part of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, the single-family homes constructed on site will be available to eligible native Hawaiian buyers for 60 percent less than current market value.

The Hawaiian Home Lands Department has relocated its main offices to the two-story Hale Kalaniana'ole building in East Kapolei.

The estate of Joan Kroc has provided a grant to the Salvation Army to build and operate a Community Recreation and Education Center on 15 acres in East Kapolei.

Features of the center will include a performing arts center, banquet facility, gymnasium, aquatic center, ball fields and a preschool.