Friday, May 4, 2001

Hilo soccer to be
saved by the grass

Petroleum-coated fields might
revive under a green solution

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> Six months after flood waters ravaged several communities on the Big Island, authorities have figured out how to fix contaminated soccer fields along Hilo's bayfront.

The solution: Cover the area with dirt and fertilize the grass.

The soccer fields lie at the end of a flood control channel built in the 1990s. Massive flood waters on Nov. 1-2 tore up the ground, exposing petroleum products left over from a long-gone factory that made kerosene.

Authorities have now determined that the chemicals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which look like hardened tar mixed with dirt, are not a major health threat.

Wendell Hatada, an assistant to Mayor Harry Kim, said authorities decided that covering the fields with three inches of dirt would be enough. The area will then be seeded with grass, and normal grass fertilizer will be spread to make it grow.

The fertilizer also has the effect of causing the hydrocarbons to break down gradually, Hatada said. The process is called bio-remediation.

The state Department of Health has given its approval, and cost figures for reimbursement are being prepared for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must still approve raising the ground level because it is a flood plain, Hatada said.

The plan does not apply to the boulder-strewn, badly eroded area at the immediate end of the flood control channel, Hatada said. That will not be restored as a playing field and may be converted to passive park use, he said.

E-mail to City Desk

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