Jeweler maker cited and forced to move

Jeweler maker cited and forced to move

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Denny Wong is a trend setter in the jewelry business but after six years an error is uncovered.  The City & County of Honolulu realized he should never have been allowed to make his creations next to residences and restaurants.

After years at the Eaton Square location in Waikiki jewelry maker Denny Wong has been cited with two violations and now ordered to pack up and move his manufacturing business.

The first violation is for illegally converting his office from retail to manufacturing without the required building permit.  The second is because the area is an apartment precinct not designed for industrial manufacturing.

That means Wong must move the manufacturing equipment and supplies out.  While we were there a worker wheeled out a 14 gallon drum labeled poison.  Another label said it was filled with toxic liquids containing hydrogen peroxide and sodium cyanide.

"I'm more in shock than anything else. I can't believe I just saw a barrel coming down my sidewalk during my lunch hour rush and placed in the back of a pickup truck and now left," said Christopher Michaels, Eaton Square Site Manager.

Moments later another drum came out also labeled sodium cyanide, which can be used in jewelry making to remove mineral deposits and make gold shinier.

"I am really concerned, that is a lot of chemical they just took out of here," said Michaels.

It's significant because Wong has been accused of dumping chemicals down the sink.  Michaels claims those chemicals burned holes in the pipes and injured him and other workers and employees in the office below.  That was last June.  Since then Michaels says he has more than 500 emails and correspondence trying to resolve the issues with the city, state and federal government.

More than a year later Michaels finally reached the right person.  A zoning inspector named Vaughn Victor spotted the violations and within four days of receiving the complaint issued the two violations.

"We're lucky we have one amazing person with the city and county, but I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with the rest of the departments," said Michaels.

The city Department of Environmental Services (ENV) didn't respond to why it took so long on their end considering Wong and his company Cosmos Jewelry have been at the Eaton Square mall for six years. That department has been investigating Wong's company for more than a year trying to determine what permit to issue and the proper amount of chemicals that can legally be dumped down the drain.

Two ENV inspectors recommended all operations with Wong's company cease until appropriate protocol and procedure can be established. Instead ENV issued a permit to dump legal amounts of chemicals down the drain.

A spokesperson with the Mayor's office says ENV was focused on the discharge of chemicals investigation. However it didn't check with the Department of Planning and Permitting to verify zoning requirements. Instead it took Wong on his word that the area was zoned for manufacturing.

Had the departments checked with each other on the zoning and permitting issues the matter would have been resolved in days rather than a year.

"Why would one city department grant a permit for discharge to someone that is not even zoned for it.  Why wouldn't these departments interact and intertwine," said Michaels. "Vaughn Victor from the Department of Planning and Permitting, he is our savior. He came in and it took him one day, one inspection to see what was going on and serve them with this violation and from that following day they came back again and gave him another violation and now he has been shut down."

Wong's attorney Brian Hiyane says they will comply with the City's order to cease the manufacturing business and will move the equipment, supplies and chemicals by the Friday August 3 deadline.

Hiyane says Wong is still exploring his options on his next move.  He does say the new location will comply with zoning requirements.

As for the two drums of cyanide we saw being removed, Oasis Environmental Group will properly ship the waste to Texas for disposal. The company president says he has made two hazardous waste pickups from Wong's location. He has been working with Wong less than a year.

An environmental health specialist with the state confirms Wong was not able to provide documentation for proper disposal of hazardous waste prior to the June 2011 incident.

While seeing two 14 gallon drums of cyanide being wheeled through the mall was shocking for Michaels, he says it's still better than having the chemicals dumped down the sink.

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