Jewelry designer accused of dumping cyanide down drain - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Jewelry designer accused of dumping cyanide down drain

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Denny Wong has been making jewelry in Hawaii for more than 30 years but victims claim the byproduct of that work has resulted in pollution and severe health problems. Investigation results show the company dumped 20 times the legal limit of cyanide down the drain in Waikiki.

Victims say Wong's business dumped cyanide and other acids and chemicals down the sink.  Over time it burned holes through pipes and injured workers down below and maintenance crews tasked to fix the damage.

"We were all 100 percent fine. We were all runners, we were hikers, we went in there we treated the facility and got the liquid on us. Our clothes started burning off of our bodies, we actually had to rip the clothing from our bodies," said Christopher Michaels, Eaton Square Site Manager, who is one of eight now suing over the injuries. "The liquid burned through our skin, burned into our bodies so we started getting treatment immediately after that for heavy metal exposure, heavy metal poisoning.  I have trouble walking, I have muscle issues, I have excessive pain issues, I have scarring and burning all over my body from where the chemical came in contact with my body."

Christopher Michaels is the site manager at Eaton Square.  He and his team went into the Waikiki Real Estate office because for the second time in six months they say cyanide acid and other chemicals burned holes in the pipes causing injuries and damage.

"Nobody has helped us. Nothing has happened. We are at a standstill and it's the same thing again and again and again. One agency tells us that's really horrible we're going to give it to another agency and that agency gives it to another agency," said Michaels.

The Waikiki Real Estate office, which is located right below the Denny Wong Design office, has had to shut down because of the safety risk.

"All it comes down to is we're closed down. The people that spilled all this on us is still in operation," said Don Persons, Waikiki Real Estate Inc. "Again we have the drain lines right above that office. How can we dare go in there and operate again when he ate right through our pipes twice in six months."

We tried to get Denny Wong's side of the story.  He said he'd love to talk with us but was advised not to.

"I don't think we're doing anything wrong but my attorney told me not to talk to anybody," said Denny Wong, Denny Wong Design.

Calls to his attorney were not returned.

Denny Wong design has been cited by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for eight violations, five of which were listed as serious.

The City of Honolulu found cyanide levels dumped were 20 times legal limits.  In a City Division of Environmental Quality report from September that was obtained today, investigators recommended the jewelry maker stop the dumping.

Since then the City says Wong has obtained a permit allowing him to continue dumping specified legal amounts of chemicals down the drain.  Wong is supposed to report to the city twice a year which chemicals he's using and how much he is dumping.  The city can do random inspections at any time, although it hasn't yet. The company has not been fined by the City.

A State Department of Health said it was not prepared to comment on the case, especially since there is an ongoing civil lawsuit. However the State says an investigator did visit the site last week and found materials and chemicals were properly labeled and stored.

"Are we really sure he is not dropping this into our drinking water anymore, because that water goes to a treatment facility and we drink that water and we bath in that water," said Michaels.

Denny Wong Design has been at the Eaton Square location more than five years.  Some neighboring business owners wonder how long the illegal dumping occurred and want investigators to continue searching for answers.

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