EPA Begins Clearing Lead Soil in Kalihi After Years Of Delay

Jan 20, 2020

The long-awaited removal of soil with high lead levels on Factory Street in Kalihi is scheduled to start on Monday.

After being postponed for two-and-a-half months, the Environmental Protection Agency will be conducting the soil removal Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The project is expected to take about five to seven weeks.

An EPA spokesman, Alejandro Diaz, explained that safety precautions will be taken during the lead soil removal.

“Residents can close their windows during the process and wash [their] hands,” he said. He said crews won't be stockpiling any contaminated material on Factory Street and will backfill excavated portions of the site at the end of each day.

"We'll also have air monitors ongoing onsite that will indicate to us on whether or not we should adjust or stop working, if necessary.”

Lead is a health hazard, especially for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that exposure to lead can cause serious damage to children's developing brains.

Authorities say a fishing supply store once located in the area that produced lead weights was the most likely source of the lead contamination.

The contamination on Factory Street was first discovered in 1993. The road was paved over to lower exposure to nearby residents. At the time, the Hawaii Department of Health and the EPA determined that there was no longer a risk to residents in the area.

In 2017, the Hawaii Department of Health Hazard Evaluation Emergency Response office discovered that the paving had deteriorated, exposing the lead soil.

In April 2019, after about a two-year delay, the EPA was notified. The health department attributed the delay to a difficulty in determining the owner of Factory Street, which officials say is ownerless and abandoned.

In October, when work on the street was scheduled to start, the EPA postponed the removal again due to a lack of a proper disposal site for the soil.

Diaz said all contaminated debris will be transported and disposed of on the Mainland. Funding for direct removal costs of the soil come from the federal government

Although work will be limited to portions of Factory Street, the Bank of Hawaii is allowing residents to park overnight and on weekends at their Kalihi location.

Diaz said that the EPA is not aware of any other areas in the state with lead levels as serious as that at Factory Street.