WAIMEA BAY (HawaiiNewsNow) – Tons of concrete and steel, some of it buried beneath the sand for decades, continues to surface as the river and beach at Waimea Bay shifts.
"If you saw the stuff, it's ugly. It's concrete and rebar sticking out and even if you just stepped on the stuff you'd be injured guaranteed," said Abe Lerner, a city and county lifeguard at Waimea for 21 years.
The long forgotten mess surfaced in February. Heavy rain filled the Waimea River. It cut a new path to the ocean and when it did large concrete structures and long rectangular pieces resembling pilings were unearthed. People who got a good look say the structures were bunkers. One was stamped with the date 1941 leading people to believe they were built just prior to World War II. Some believe the rectangular pieces may be remnants of an old bridge or the railroad that used to pass through the bay.
Early this year a teen playing near the river mouth suffered a puncture wound. The city removed visible debris, but the beach and river continue to shift covering, exposing, and again covering the debris. Lifeguards who are at the beach every day say there are still large structures, chunks of concrete, and rusty rebar beneath the surface of the river and hiding under the sand.
"Our concern is that we, people, are able to use the beach in a safe environment, and that's the concern - that these objects are there and just through the random acts of nature they can become unburied," said Lt. John Hoogsteden, with the City Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division.
Lifeguards have posted "No Swimming" signs to keep people out of the river. They make frequent announcements on bullhorns warning visitors to stay clear of the hidden danger in the river.
The city would ultimately like to remove all the debris. But no one is sure where all the pieces are buried.
And the city would like help, but so far no one has stepped forward.
Waimea Bay Beach Park is owned by the city, but the property in question is below the vegetation line and therefore appears to belong to the state. The state has yet to assist in the clean-up.
No branch of the military has stepped forward to claim the bunkers or offer help with the clean-up.
So the river will remain off limits until a storm exposes more of the mess making it easy for the city to find and remove debris, the military or state steps up to help, or new sand deposits bury the problem for another 70 years.