(Source: Star Advertiser)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to remove the soil under Factory Street in Kalihi “to abate the potential imminent and substantial endangerment posed by lead contamination to this densely populated neighborhood,” and says it can begin the work as soon as Monday.
Because the street has no designated owner, the EPA is asking the federal court for an administrative warrant to access the property.
The agency said the work will be done from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and should take three to four weeks to complete. At least two days before it begins the work the EPA said it will leave flyers at homes and businesses and post no-parking signs in the neighborhood. The agency said it already has secured the use of other property for staging of equipment, transportation and storage.
The EPA and state Department of Health have known that soils in various locations of Factory Street between King and Waterhouse streets contain elevated lead concentrations, exceeding both the EPA Residential Screening Level and state DOH Environmental Action Level for unrestricted use. In 1995 and 1996 they decided that no action was necessary because the pavement prevented exposure to residents.
In recent years, however, the city stopped maintaining the street and the asphalt has been crumbling, forming cracks and potholes, exposing the contaminated soil to the surface. Residents also say concrete caps on some of the holes drilled into the pavement to test the soil underneath are no longer there.
The exterior of the home at 915 Factory St. is below street level and floods when it rains because there is no drainage, residents said. They said four of the five children who either live or frequent the home have elevated levels of lead in their blood.
Apartment buildings and businesses line both sides of the 900 block of Factory Street. Parks and five elementary schools are located within a half-mile.
Harry Kim, owner of HK Construction at 905 Factory St., said someone from the EPA told him a few months ago of the plan to dig up the street but no one warned him of any risk of exposure to the soil.
“You gotta think there is,” he said.
The residents at 915 Factory St. said the only person who contacted them about lead contamination of the soil is area City Councilman Joey Manahan, who could not tell them the risk they face if they are exposed to the dirt.
The EPA said children and adults who regularly travel or play on Factory Street are at risk of high levels of lead exposure, especially children who play on degraded street shoulders. The Health Department said people are exposed to lead through ingestion, which is a concern for small children who touch everything and put their hands into their mouths.
State public health authorities have known about lead in the blood of children residing on Factory Street since the 1990s but had not identified the source. The source of the lead in the soil is another mystery, but could have come from a dental office, sign painting shop, Kalihi Fishing Supply and a car battery rebuilder, which all once operated there, the EPA said.
Kalihi Taro and Land Co. bought Factory Street in 1910, then the company dissolved in 1926 without selling or transferring the property to anyone. The Health Department said the city maintained the private street as long as there was public access, but stopped repaving the roadway after residents posted no-parking signs.
DOH said it used money from its Environmental Response Revolving fund to repair potholes while it tried to find an owner to take responsibility for Factory Street. When it determined that the property is abandoned, it turned to the EPA.