Public input sought on soil removal at Kolekole Beach Park

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Lead continues to be a hazard in the soil of Kolekole Beach Park on Monday.

The state Department of Health is requesting public feedback on a plan to remove lead from the soil within Kolekole Beach Park.

Kolekole Park and the nearby Hakalau Beach Park were closed in 2017 after high concentrations of lead were found in the soil.

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In both cases, the source of the contamination was lead-based paint that chipped off of the nearby Kolekole and Hakalau bridges. While the paint itself was removed from the bridges in 2001, the contamination remains and because the bridges are state Department of Transportation infrastructure, it falls to the DOT to remediate the effects of the lead contamination.

Kolekole Park was reopened in 2020 on a temporary basis, with a full reopening pending based on recommendations from an environmental consultant.

According to DOH documents, the consultant has completed their assessment of Kolekole and is tentatively recommending that the DOT remove all soil in the park that exceeds critical contamination levels — 200 mg per kg of soil — to dispose of it offsite and replace it with clean fill.

“This option is cost-effective since it will permanently reduce the volume of contamination on-site and not require any further monitoring or maintenance,” read a DOH statement. “After the cleanup has taken place, the park can be opened for use for the public.”

The current level of lead contamination at Kolekole is “comparable to levels found along busy roadsides in urban areas,” according to a DOH fact sheet about the plan.

Lead contamination primarily poses a risk to children within the park, who may accidentally ingest small amounts of contaminated soil. Prolonged lead exposure can cause learning disabilities and neurocognitive disorders in children.

However, as part of the temporary reopening of the park in 2020, the most-contaminated parts of the park have been fenced off, with a healthy grass cover and mulch applied to bare soil throughout the park in order to minimize the likelihood of lead exposure.

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Until Nov. 30, members of the public can submit feedback on the project to DOH and DOT. The plan can be viewed at health.hawaii.gov/heer/kolekole and comments can be submitted to thomas.gilmore@doh.hawaii.gov.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.