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Saturday, October 25, 2014         

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More medical waste at ocean's edge

Syringes, some filled with what appears to be blood, continue to litter Ko Olina's shores

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

POSTED:


Medical waste continued to turn up at the mouth of a storm drain at the edge of Ko Olina Resort yesterday, a day after Waste Management Hawaii finished its cleanup of debris that washed down from the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill last week.

Carroll Cox, a citizen environmental watchdog, said he collected about 35 syringes yesterday from that area, some with needles and some with vials of red liquid that appeared to be blood. He said he also collected about seven vials filled with red and yellow liquid that appeared to be blood or urine.

What he gathered and photographed accounted for about half of what he saw coming from the storm drain, as well as washing back in from the ocean, he said.

"They were just popping up like minnow," Cox said, referring to the waste that was coming out of the outfall.

Tim Steinberger, city environmental services director, said that when he heard reports about noon yesterday that debris was continuing to wash ashore, he told Waste Management officials to send workers to the shoreline.

Steinberger said he was told workers walked the shoreline yesterday from White Plains Beach in Kalaeloa to the outfall at Ko Olina. "The message that I got back was they didn't see anything significant, but I have no idea what 'significant' means," he said.

Steinberger said the reports of debris "bothered the heck out of me" and that his office will be at the shoreline today to ensure Waste Management is keeping the area clean.

The deluge of rain late Wednesday caused an unknown volume of water to flood a section of the landfill, sending debris-laden storm water down to a filtration basin. In turn, water and debris from the basin spilled into three storm water drainage pipes that pass under Farrington Highway and through Ko Olina property into the ocean near the resort's northern border.

A Waste Management official said in a statement yesterday that the company completed its pickup along the shoreline on Friday and that its workers yesterday focused on cleaning an area next to the filtration basin.

Steinberger said the company is focused on cleaning the basin and surrounding area in anticipation of new rains expected today. But that doesn't mean they should not also be monitoring the beach, he said.

"I told them to get people down there," he said.

Steinberger said the storm water now being released from the basin at the edge of the landfill is being closely monitored by state Health Department officials and that he suspects most if not all of the debris is coming in from the ocean.

On Friday, the state Health Department shut down the lagoons at Ko Olina as well as nearby beaches.

City spokeswoman Louise Kim McCoy said that beginning Thursday, city employees posted more than 65 signs warning beachgoers not to go into the water until the Health Department advises otherwise.

The landfill is allowed to accept sanitized medical waste, state and city officials said.

Joe Whelan, general manager of the landfill, said Friday that less than 1 percent of the waste accepted consists of medical waste and that only a few companies send such waste there.

Whelan said the company was only weeks away from completing a bypass drainage way that would have diverted storm water from a large reservoir above the landfill away from the waste.

The landfill is closed until further notice.

City officials said that until the landfill reopens, curbside bulky item pickup will be limited to metal appliances such as washers and dryers. Other items such as furniture, mattresses and toilets won't be picked up and should not be place curbside.






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