Pearl City rang in
smokiest New Year

Pearl City had the worst of Oahu's fireworks smoke on New Year's Eve, according to the state Health Department's Clean Air Branch.

In the four years that sampling of air quality has been done on New Year's Eve, some of the highest levels of smoke were recorded during the latest celebration, the branch reported yesterday.

More than 7,076 permits were sold on Oahu for fireworks by Dec. 30, compared with 6,100 the previous year. And the predicted nasty weather did not materialize to hold down the smoke.

"Oh boy, was I discouraged," said Wilfred Nagamine, Clean Air Branch chief. "We didn't get the rain and we didn't get the wind."

The air was sampled hourly for particulate matter of 10 microns or less at five monitoring stations -- in Honolulu, Liliha, Pearl City and Kapolei on Oahu and Kihei, Maui. Ten microns is the size of talcum powder particles, Nagamine said.

State and Federal Air Quality Standards for particulate matter that is 10 microns or less is 150 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

Pearl City averaged 195 micrograms per cubic meter for 24 hours on Saturday.

The 24-hour averages at the other stations were below the state and federal standards. Liliha averaged 94 micrograms per cubic meter of air for Saturday, followed by Honolulu at 64, Kapolei at 54 and Kihei at 22.

The highest levels of particulates in the air were recorded between 9 p.m. last Friday and 3 a.m. Saturday.

Nagamine said the 24-hour average last Friday was 131 micrograms per cubic meter of air. "'It doesn't start rising until everybody does their thing at midnight. We have loading in the atmosphere."

The highest hourly reading in Pearl City on Saturday was 1,521 micrograms per cubic meter of air at 1 a.m., he said. The number dropped rapidly, with dramatic improvement by 4 a.m., according to the monitors.

Claudia Clement, program associate at the Honolulu branch of the American Lung Association, said it received a lot of calls before New Year's Eve from people who "were really scared ... not knowing what to do."

Most calls were from people concerned that the fireworks would trigger an asthma attack, she said. "Really, all you can do is encourage them not to be in it (the smoke)."

The association offered a number of options through its Safe Haven Program. Turtle Bay Resort, Ohana East and the Radisson Prince Kuhio worked with the association to offer hotel rooms at preferential rates to people with respiratory ailments.

Clement said the association received about 15 requests from people for hotels, but it is not known how many actually checked in. The association also suggested Camp Timberline to escape the smoke.

Gaspro donated masks to protect people during peak hours of smoke, and about 45 were distributed by the association office, Clement said.

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