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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 18, 2007

Beach trash a relentless tide

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

Suzanne Frazer and Dean Otsuki often gather and bag trash along the shore but have returned here to Bellows beach to find that their filled garbage bags have not been picked up by the military, parks workers or the state for disposal. They say that's an ongoing problem.

Photos by DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Otsuki notes an encrusted barrel marked "DOT" that has been left sitting on the beach at Bellows for quite a while.

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WAIMANALO Suzanne Frazer and Dean Otsuki spend every weekend at the beach collecting marine debris that litters the shore, but the mess keeps washing in, leaving them frustrated and feeling overwhelmed.

Frazer, a University of Hawai'i student, and Otsuki, a graphic designer, have been walking Waimanalo beaches for about a year. Right away they discovered that marine debris was turning paradise into a dump, so they began taking trash bags on their routine walks.

By April they realized they couldn't make much of a difference by themselves, so they organized the first of seven cleanups that attracted as many as 100 volunteers at a time for the Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai'i. After a big cleanup, the friends would try to maintain the beaches but failed.

"We cleaned Sherwood beach every day for two months, two to three hours a day, last year and we couldn't keep the beach completely clear of marine debris," Frazer said. "The amount coming in is just too much for a couple of people."

Frazer and Otsuki believe the city should do more to help keep the beaches clean, but said pleas to officials have achieved limited results.

City parks officials said the department does what it can, but that limited funding is always an issue. "It comes down to pure economics," said Wil Ho, Windward District supervisor for the city Department of Parks and Recreation. "We could have the cleanest beaches in the world if we want to put the money into doing it."

Waimanalo beaches are vast and beautiful, with the best hidden from view. City park personnel routinely clean beach parks, emptying trash containers, picking up waste and washing out restrooms, Ho said. The sand area cleaning is done by machines. Crews will remove large debris such as logs or cargo nets that can injure people, he said.

The most heavily used beaches are cleaned regularly with a sifting machine that screens large items from the sand. Some beaches are "swept" more frequently than others, and the decision to do that is made in the park's maintenance section, Ho said.

Ho said he appreciates the community's help in cleaning beaches and people such as Frazer and Otsuki for organizing the projects, because park personnel can't spend the day picking up marine debris and still keep parks and park facilities clean.

"We try to help her as much as we can, but the reality is we just have so much resources," he said.

Wilson Ho, chairman of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board, understands Frazer's quest and Ho's limitation. Waimanalo has tried for 10 to 12 years to increase beach cleanup funds, Ho said.

"We've never had success, so we just organize beach cleanups," Ho said. "They always tell us they don't have the funds."

Frazer and Otsuki have spent much of their time cleaning from Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area to Bellows Air Force Station. On Monday, some patches of the beach were clean and others were covered with debris, including plastic pieces, ropes and nets. The sand machine is used in some areas but not on the whole beach, Otsuki said.

Currents converging on the islands bring debris from around the world, Otsuki said. Most of it is dumped on the windward side of the islands, he said.

"We live in Hawai'i and it should be paradise but sometimes it's not," he said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.