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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Test clears way for city cleanup at dump site

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Preliminary test results revealed negligible levels of heavy metals and asbestos in the soil at an illegal dump on city property in Waipahu, clearing the way for removal of tons of buried appliances and construction material, officials said yesterday.

Cleanup at the site — a city maintenance and repair base yard — was expected to resume today. The work had been on hold pending the soil tests.

"The city is very motivated to clean up the site as quickly as possible," said Steve Chang, chief of the state Health Department's Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch, which is spearheading the investigation of the dumping.

Yesterday, officials said only trace levels of the materials had been found, easing concerns that they could pose a health risk.

The city expects to finish removing about 250 crushed appliances from the former incinerator site in Waipahu by Friday, said Frank Doyle, acting director of the city Department of Environmental Services. The appliances will be cleaned and sent to Hawaii Metal Recycling Co.

Soil test results from areas near the site, where ash and bricks from the incinerator were found, are still being evaluated, Doyle said.

About eight electricians and mechanics worked full time at the site. Dozens of other city workers, including drivers, frequent the baseyard weekly.

About 30 tons of crushed white goods — appliances such as water heaters and stoves — were removed from the former incinerator site March 1 and sent to the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state attorney general's office are also investigating the dumping.

"We are pursing the allegations," said Donald Wong, chief investigator for the attorney general's office.

The investigations have included an interview with Peter M. Kealoha Jr., refuse disposal facility superintendent for the city and vice president and part-owner of Maunalei Trucking Inc., which officials have said may have disposed of construction debris at the Waipahu site.

Kealoha has been placed on administrative leave with pay.

The city expects to conclude its internal investigation this week, said city spokeswoman Carol Costa.

Reach Catherine E. Toth at 535-8103 or ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.