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Toxins in Kauai soil raise concerns


Kauai residents said they’re worried about the chemical contamination in soil found recently in a residential neighborhood that was once an industrial area near a former sugar mill.

"What complicates the matter is this industrial area was subdivided into residential lots," said state Rep. Hermina Morita (D, East-North Kauai). "I hope these areas will be eventually cleaned up."

Health officials discussed the problem at a meeting at the Kilauea School cafeteria last night.

High levels of chemicals, including dioxin and arsenic, were detected in soil taken during an excavation in the cesspool area near the senior center, said Sen. Ronald Kouchi (D, Kauai- Niihau).

The chemicals were found in the area of a former pesticide mixing operation for Kilauea Sugar Mill, which closed in 1971, he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified some dioxins as likely to cause cancer in humans.

Kouchi said the contamination appeared to be limited but that further testing was taking place in the Kilauea community.

He said state health officials were in the field this week to identify test areas and gather more information.

Kouchi said he is confident state health officials, led by Deputy Director Gary Gill, would be able to deal with the problem.

Kouchi said he wanted to make sure Kilauea residents are comfortable with actions being taken to ensure their safety.

Sen. Josh Green (D, Kohala-Kona) said he expects the Health Department to give a full accounting of the extent, severity and possible impact of the contamination, as well as a cleanup plan.

"The public needs to know what the risks are and what the potential health effects could be," he said.

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