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Hawaii’s DOE fined $1.4M for mishandling disposal of tainted soil

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Radford High School.

The state Department of Education and several contractors have been fined $1.4 million for violating solid waste laws during the renovation of Radford High School’s track field last year. 

Last spring, the DOE stopped renovation work on the school’s track field after debris and soil samples tested positive for contaminants including lead and arsenic. 

The state Health Department on Thursday said it has issued four violation notices tied to the removal, transportation and disposal of soil contaminated with debris and concrete waste from the school construction site to a private residence in Kaneohe, a construction site in Kapolei and an unpermitted concrete recycling facility in Kailua. 

“Based on analytical laboratory results provided by DOE and its consultant, the transported soil was contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, and mercury at amounts that exceeded DOH Environmental Action Levels posing a potential health risk to the public,” the Health Department said in a statement. 

The imposed penalties include:

>> $20,000 on the DOE, MEI Corp. and Central Equipment for the disposal of two truckloads of contaminated soil and debris at a private residence

>> $1,122,000 on the DOE, MEI Corp., ALU Transportation Services, Kuaana Trucking Inc., XTreme Trucking Inc., Alliance Trucking, Hawaiian Western Transport LCC, and Thunder Trucking LCC, for disposal of 103 truckloads of contaminated soil at a residential development under construction in Kapolei, and for the disposal of 24 truckloads of concrete slabs at an unpermitted concrete recycling facility in Kailua.

>> $292,000 on Royal Contracting Company Ltd. for the operation of an open dump/unpermitted solid waste facility by accepting contaminated soil and a truckload of concrete waste without approval from DOH.

>> $13,530 on Kapaa Quarry Recycling Inc. for the operation of an unpermitted solid waste facility by accepting and processing concrete waste without approval from DOH.

The department said the parties can request a hearing to contest the allegations. 

“Property owners, operators and contractors are responsible for the safe handling of construction waste generated by their projects,” Keith Kawaoka, the Health Department’s deputy director for environmental health, said in a statement. “It is equally important for property owners and operators that accept soil for their property or projects to ensure that they receive only clean, uncontaminated soil that is free of waste.” 

DOE Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson said in a statement that the department has requested a hearing to dispute the findings, adding that the DOE was surprised by the decision. 

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