Toxic ‘Hilo Burrito’
getting dumped

Federal, state and county officials have begun removing and disposing of soil contaminated with petroleum byproducts from a site near the Hilo Bayfront Recreation area on the Big Island.

The site is called the "Hilo Burrito" because 6,000 tons of contaminated soil has been wrapped and stored in plastic, resembling a large burrito.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Health and Hawaii County began carting away the soil yesterday, which contains volatile and semivolatile toxins from an old Hilo gasoline-manufacturing plant that was destroyed by the tsunami that hit Hilo in 1960.

In May 1960, 61 people on the Big Island were killed by the tsunami, which was started by an earthquake in Chile.

The "Hilo Burrito" is at the mouth of the flood channel on the Hilo flood plain near the Ponahawai Street side of the Bayfront Recreation area.

The contaminated site was first discovered in 1997 when the Army started construction on a flood-control channel and levy to prevent the downtown Hilo area from flooding.

The contaminated soil will be dumped at the West Hawaii Sanitary Landfill, the only site on the Big Island approved to take it. The soil will form the initial layer required for a new municipal waste area at the landfill and reduce the county's cost for preparing the area. Work on the site is expected to last four weeks.

The removal will eliminate the threat of hazardous contaminants being released into areas susceptible to flooding and tsunamis, Laurence Lau, deputy director for environmental health, said yesterday in a news release.

Cleanup crews will also remove 1,000 tons of contaminated soil from a second area near the original site. The area was exposed during flooding in November 2000.


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