Lead contamination delays Umauma bridge project

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The discovery of lead in the soil below Umauma bridge near Hakalau likely will delay completion of the span’s ongoing $30.8 million rehabilitation project, state officials say.

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The discovery of lead in the soil below Umauma bridge near Hakalau likely will delay completion of the span’s ongoing $30.8 million rehabilitation project, state officials say.

The lead, left from paint that fell into the gulch during past maintenance work, was found where new bridge footings need to be installed.

The contamination, which is considered “high,” must be removed to a depth of 11 feet before the support structures can be installed, said Sal Panen, a state Department of Transportation engineering program manager.

That work began a few months ago and is ongoing, he said.

The project was expected to be complete in April 2016.

A DOT spokesman said it’s unclear how much the soil removal will affect the project’s timeline, but delays are expected. It also wasn’t clear how much the budget will be impacted.

Panen said the soil is being placed into bags that are lifted out of the gulch by cranes.

The 278-foot bridge on Highway 19 was built in 1911 for the railroad and was widened in the early 1950s to support vehicles.

It was labeled structurally deficient in 2007 because of corrosion of its steel truss towers.

Emergency repairs were performed in 2013 prior to the start of the renovations.

The project involves the construction of new concrete support towers, widening of the bridge deck and roadway shoulders to 44 feet, and a new concrete railing.

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Since the repairs started, traffic has been limited to one lane on the bridge, alternating between Hilo- and Hamakua-bound vehicles.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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