Thursday, September 6, 2001

Harbor petroleum cleanup
will be expensive endeavor

If landowners do not sign on to the group
effort, they could face EPA sanctions alone

By Diana Leone

Getting petroleum pollution out of Iwilei soil could take up to 10 years, state Health Director Bruce Anderson said yesterday.

And the cleanup cost "could be certainly in the tens of millions or even higher than that," all of which will be paid for by owners of the contaminated land, Anderson said at a news conference at Pier 26. "This is probably one of the most significant releases of oils in the state."

The redevelopment of Hono-lulu Harbor depends on getting rid of the underground oil, said Gary Gill, state deputy director for environmental health. It can cause health hazards if fumes gather in a warehouse built on the contaminated soil or create an explosion risk in sewer pipes or other enclosed areas.

The oil in Iwilei was deposited over the past 100 years via spills, defunct pipelines or leaks. Anderson described how one landowner cleaned up oil only to have contamination return in a few months because it moved through the ground water. The areawide nature of the problem has prompted cooperation among area landowners, he said.

Of about 50 current landowners in the area, 12 have agreed to help determine how much contamination is there and to pay for its removal, said Laura Young, a Health Department remediation specialist. If land-owners not participating in the Honolulu Harbor Participating Parties are found to have oil contamination, they will face EPA sanctions on an individual basis, Young said.

Testing that began Tuesday and will last two months should give a good indication how much spilled petroleum products are in the area just adjacent to Piers 17-39. In addition to oil companies, the state Transportation Department is a major landowner through its Harbors Division.

Later projects will attempt to check for leaks at functioning pipelines and tanks and to test other areas of Iwilei further mauka of the harbor.

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