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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 16, 2004

Hard to dump 'old habit' on O'ahu

By Carrie Ching
Advertiser Staff Writer

MA'ILI — Waves crashed against the rocks at Ma'ili Point, showering piles of tires and an abandoned clothes dryer with mist. It's one of scores of illegal dump sites on O'ahu, where car batteries, appliances and household trash litter the landscape.

Community activist Carroll Cox of Envirowatch predicts it will be a long time before the state is able to reduce the illegal dumping that happens all over O'ahu. Tires and an abandoned clothes dryer were found discarded near Ma'ili Point on the Leeward coast.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

In April the city publicized a new, improved hotline and advertising campaign to address illegal dumping. Two new bills signed by Gov. Linda Lingle last month increase penalties for illegal dumping and promise rewards to people who report illegal dumping. But one community activist says it'll take time to gauge whether such steps reduce the problem.

"The reality is it's still here," said Carroll Cox, founder of Envirowatch, Inc., as he pointed to a pile of tires on the beach Tuesday. "Eventually we'll get a handle on it, but it'll be a long process."

Cox said he called the city three months ago to report a pile of old tires and car batteries near the Ma'ili tidepools. The Department of Health came down to pick up the batteries right away, he said, since battery acid is a hazardous waste. This week Cox checked on the site and found the tires still stacked on the rocks next to a new addition: a rusty Whirlpool dryer.

The new Environmental Concern Line has received 209 calls since its April launch, said Suzanne Jones, recycling coordinator for the city Department of Environmental Services. Of those 209 reported illegal dump sites, 185 have been cleaned up, Jones said. It normally takes one to four weeks to contact the appropriate agency and schedule an investigation and cleanup, she said.

Although the Environmental Concern Line is not new — it existed for several years at a different phone number — Jones said the services offered at the central hotline have improved. During business hours, Monday through Friday, a city employee will assist callers by collecting data on an illegal dump site and then contacting the agency responsible for cleaning up the mess. Two weeks later the caller will receive a progress report over the phone on the status of the cleanup, she said.

Last month the city announced its campaign against illegal dumping was "effective" and "gaining momentum." But Jones said the city didn't keep track of how many illegal-dump calls it was receiving before the anti-dumping campaign began in April, and cannot quantify the hotline's effect.

Jones said the city is building a database to study what items are most commonly dumped and where the hotspots of illegal dumping are on O'ahu.

The most common items illegally dumped on O'ahu are tires, car batteries, mattresses, furniture, appliances and automobiles, Jones said.

Although individuals are often to blame, contractors and hauling companies are also known to dump waste illegally, she said. "When 20 tires appear somewhere overnight, that's a business," Jones said. "That's criminal. Then the cost of disposal is incurred by all of us through taxes."

Some hotspots for illegal dumping are Wai'anae, Pearl City, Waimanalo and the North Shore, Jones said.

Cox, who said he drives around the island three or four times a week checking on illegal dump sites, said some of the worst sites he's seen are on Plantation Road, Lualualei Homestead Road and Wai'anae Valley Road in Wai'anae and Kapa'a Quarry Road in Kailua — all within blocks of city refuse convenience centers.

"It's so frustrating," Jones said. "I don't understand why when the transfer station is right there."

Cox said access to convenience centers and long waits may be part of the problem.

On Monday he said he drove to the Wai'anae Refuse Convenience Center at 4:30 p.m. The center, which was supposed to be open until 6 p.m., was closed, he said. A hand-painted sign reading, "Closed. Bins Full" hung on the gate beside a cardboard sign that said the site was not accepting tires because the tire bin was full.

Cox said he saw more than 20 vehicles with loads of trash pull up at the locked gate and turn around that afternoon. The next day, the road leading up to the convenience center was piled with tires, ripped mattresses, broken televisions and a 55-gallon metal barrel.

Automotive parts including car batteries and tires, household items, home-construction items and trash were found scattered along Mailiili Road in Wai'anae, one of the hotspots for illegal dumping.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Someone comes here with tires, the bins are full, guess what happens to their tires?" Cox said, pointing down the road. "You see them back there."

Jo Jordan of the Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board said a few residents have complained about the convenience center being closed during business hours because the bins are full. The same problem was reported at the 'Ewa Convenience Center last month.

Jones said the city is opening the Waimanalo Gulch landfill a half-hour early — at 6:30 a.m. — so city trucks have more time to bring in waste from the convenience centers. The city is also hoping to contract with a private hauling company to assist city trucks with dumping the bins, she said.

Jordan, who does volunteer beach cleanups once a month, said despite the city's new initiative she hasn't seen many changes in Wai'anae so far. "You gotta remember, it's an election year," she said.

Beyond increasing penalties and encouraging people to report illegal dumping, Jordan said, education will make the biggest difference by preventing illegal dumping and litter in the first place.

"A lot of people gotta break old habits," she said. "There's a whole generation or two that thinks it's OK to flick a cigarette out the window or throw their garbage on the side of the road," she said. "It's not."

Reach Carrie Ching at 525-8054 or cching@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• • •

Report illegal dumping

• Call the Environmental Concern Line at 692-5656 to report illegal dump sites or visit www.opala.org.

• To report illegal dumping in progress, call 911.

Where to properly dispose of it

• Car batteries and tires: Give old car batteries and tires to the dealer when buying new ones. State law requires dealers to accept and recycle them. You can also take them to a city refuse convenience center or to Unitek (682-8284), a company that recycles tires for playgrounds and landscaping.

• Appliances: Call for bulky item pickup or take items to a city convenience center or the Kapa'a or Kawailoa transfer stations for metal recycling. Appliance dealers will also remove old appliances when delivering new ones, but may charge a fee.

Computers: Working computers can be donated to public schools through Computers for Kids by dropping them off at CompUSA. Nonfunctioning computer equipment can be taken to Island Recycling Inc. (845-1188) and Lenox Resources (682-5539).

• Paint: Small quantities from home use can be put with regular household trash. Latex paints should be dried in the can, oil-based paints must be solidified with old rags or shredded paper.

Waste oil: Motor oil, cutting oil or fuel oil can be put out with household trash. Use an oil change box or pour into a plastic bag with absorbent material and seal the bag.

• Propane tanks: Do not dispose in trash. If propane tanks get into H-Power, they may explode. Empty tanks can be dropped off at convenience centers.

Furniture and mattresses: Call for bulky item pickup or drop off at a Convenience Center, Kapa'a and Kawailoa Transfer Stations or the landfill. Companies should deliver directly to the landfill.

• Refuse convenience centers and transfer centers are open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at these locations: 'Ewa (Geiger Road), Wahiawa (Wilikina Drive), Waipahu (Waipahu Depot Street), Waimanalo (Hihimanu Street), Waimanalo Gulch Landfill (Farrington Highway; closes at 4:30 p.m.), La'ie (Kamehameha Highway), Wai'anae (Plantation Road), Hale'iwa (Kawailoa Road), Kailua (Kapa'a Quarry Road)

• Find out when bulky item pickup times are in your neighborhood: 523-4685.