A $5 million project to dredge Hawaii Kai Marina is being delayed because of concerns from the other end of the island, where Waianae residents complain it’s another example of using one of the state’s poorest communities as a dumping ground.
The project is halted for a week amid the concerns and to make sure that all necessary permits are in place, Hawaii Kai Marina Community Association President Robert Clark said Thursday.
Clark insisted the material is safe, that it’s merely dirt from the mountains.
"I’d have it in my backyard, frankly, if I could," he said. "It’s very fertile material."
The association spent $200,000 to analyze sludge samples at mainland laboratories, he said.
The association hired American Marine to oversee dredging of the marina, which is down to 2 feet in some places and could be dangerous for boaters, Clark said. The company subcontracted with SER Silva Equipment Rental to dispose of the sludge. Representatives from both companies couldn’t be reached for comment.
City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who represents Waianae, demanded that the association remove the debris and return it to holding areas in Hawaii Kai.
"I will make sure that I do everything in my power, including exploring all legislative options, to stop this private marina from dumping its sludge in our community and ensure that this unchecked dumping never happens again," Pine said in a statement.
Environmental activist Carroll Cox was stuck in a major traffic jam Saturday, caused when an SER truck spilled sludge it was hauling westward on the H-1 freeway. Cox became suspicious because dumps were closed and the truck was headed toward Waianae, where there has been illegal dumping in the past.
"This is the textbook example of environmental injustice," Cox said. "One entity has the money, the power, the influence … and does something that impacts negatively on a community that’s less fortunate."
State Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, who represents Waianae, said her office received complaints from homestead residents about the dumping in Waianae Valley. So she contacted the city, which sent an inspector.
The Department of Planning and Permitting conducted an inspection Aug. 20 which revealed that earthen material was trucked in and used as fill without a grading permit, said department spokesman Curtis Lum. A notice of violation was issued Friday, ordering the company to stop work immediately. The citation would impose daily fines of $150 if a grading permit isn’t secured by Oct. 7.
Pake Salmon of community group Ka Wai Ola o Waianae said residents are worried because they don’t know what’s in the sludge, which could end up flowing into Pokai Bay. She said she’s also offended that Clark dismissed concerns and told a Hawaii News Now reporter they came out of "total ignorance."
"How I educate those people out there to know that this is the situation, I don’t know," Clark told The Associated Press, "because I’m not going to take the time to do it. I haven’t got the time."
He said the association doesn’t control where the sludge ends up, and it wasn’t deliberate "to dump it in an area where the Hawaiians are residing."
Clark added, "But there are big areas of open space there that can be used in this way."
Natalie Iwasa, a member of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, said there needs to be sensitivity to the Waianae residents’ concerns and that information about the sludge’s contents should be shared with them.
"We understand what their concerns are, and we would be willing to help educate and do what we can … to help with this issue," she said.