Week long cleanup at Slipper Island in Keehi Lagoon underway

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A week long effort to remove piles of trash and debris littered across Slipper Island began Monday morning.  Hawaii News Now was the first to report on the condition of the berm a year and a half after the state spent $10,000 cleaning it up.

Crews are back and it isn't a garbage bag job, but one that requires heavy duty machinery and professionals who've worked on tsunami cleanup in the past.

"They have a bunch of containers that they're bringing in to off load all of this debris or whatever they have in the brush.  Once they're finished with that we'll see it completely cleaned up," explained Meghan Statts, the O'ahu district manager for the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

Sea Engineers has been contracted to remove all the junk that has accumulated on Slipper Island since they completed the last cleanup in April of 2012.

"A lot of the homeless bring their trash out there, but it's also people that have homes up the hill that are dumping stuff in the canals so it's just flowing down the hill.  It's not just one problem, it's a bunch of problems together," described Peter Rocap, who has docked his boat in the harbor for the last ten years.

Boat owners say the pile of garbage is more than just an eyesore.

"When the Kona winds come blowing in and the storms come into the harbor a lot of that trash from Slipper Island gets brought into where the boats are and so it can become a hazard and become unsafe for other boaters," explained Molly MacDonald, who has lived in her boat at the harbor for the last year.

Officials notified the homeless families living on the island about the clean up last week Friday.

"We wanted to make sure that we came out here and gave them the opportunity to take any stuff that they might want to take with them," Statts said.

Officials will also be clearing the kiawe brush to create a line of sight, but crews won't be removing the roots because of concerns it might compromise the island.  The skinny island in the middle of Ke'ehi Lagoon protects boaters in the off-shore mooring area.  Officials say cutting back the kiawe will be instrumental for monitoring the situation to keep it from happening again.

Boaters say the cleanup is a step in the right direction, but are skeptical about its long-term effects.

"I'm sure they're doing a lot of work to clean it up, but it's just going to all come right back," Rocap said.

"Cleanups are going to need to be done on a continual basis in order to maintain it," said MacDonald.

Officials say they understand tenants and boaters frustrations.

"We're listening and we just want to make sure that they understand that we're doing the best that we can and hopefully this will help deter some of the illegal activity and homelessness that's been happening out here," Statts said.

It's unclear how much the Slipper Island will cost the state this time around.

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