Friday, December 3, 1999

Few dangerous
chemicals found in
soil samples of
two subdivisions

Residents of Village Park
and West Loch Fairways search
for the cause of increased illnesses

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Few samples of dangerous chemicals have been found in the soil at Village Park and West Loch Fairways on Oahu, according to a draft report done for the state Health Department.

Residents of the two areas for years have believed that pesticides and herbicides used by agricultural companies in and around their neighborhoods are to blame for an increase in ailments in their families.

The results will be presented by the Health Department 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Kaleiopuu Elementary School cafeteria.

"In general, few of the agricultural (chemicals of potential concern) were detected throughout the study area," according to the executive summary of the report, done by Ogden Environmental and Energy Services Co. under a $220,000 appropriation from the state Legislature.

Harmful pesticides often associated with the pineapple and sugar industries -- including ethylene dibromide, dibromochloropropane and trichloropropane -- were not detected, the report says.

Detected chemicals included arsenic, chromium, lead, copper and mercury but "the detection of those analytes ... is consistent with background levels found throughout the state."

Various concentrations of dioxin/furans also were found at different sampling sites, but "this was anticipated because of the past agricultural uses in the areas," the report states.

Keith Kawaoka, manager of the hazard evaluation and emergency response office, said the Health Department is still analyzing the report and declined comment.

Henry Curtis of Life of the Land, which has helped Village Park residents lobby the Legislature for funding for the soil study, said the survey is a "good first step" toward discovering the cause of ailments.

"It's good we didn't find the herbicides, but this is the first time that anybody has looked at what's there and it's preliminary," Curtis said.

As for the findings of arsenic, chromium, copper, lead and mercury, "we have not had a chance to analyze the risk implications," he said.

Cheryl Yamane, head of a group of neighbors known as Citizens for a Safe Environment, said she has not had a chance to view the document fully.

Both groups were to meet with Ogden and health officials before Tuesday's meeting.

Attorney Glenn Stanford, whose law firm has sued agricultural plantations and chemical manufacturing companies in the dispute, said the findings won't cause a change in course.

That the samplings did not detect herbicides and pesticides was not a surprise, he said. "We figured they would be volatilized in the soil," he said.

Stanford also noted that very few deep-soil samplings were done.

Health Department officials said they focused on surface rather than deep-soil sampling because of cost considerations, and because they felt greater health impacts would occur at the surface level.

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