Radford High track off limits because of hazardous waste contamination

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Radford High School's athletic field is the focus of a toxic waste cleanup. Although state health officials say there is no risk to students, staff or parents.

It wasn't exactly the way Radford High School wanted to kickoff construction of its new track, but serious soil contamination has sidelined work at the facility.

Radford has been trying to get a new track for 20 plus years. Now that construction started on the $2.2 million job it's already stopped because of a significant amount of lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury found underground.

"Everything was sub grade so all the surface soil was safe. It's more because they had to dredge down," said James Sunday, Radford High School Principal.

The contamination was buried about two to three feet. The State Department of Health says 200 parts per million is cause for concern, but tests showed 6,000 parts per million under the track.

"Everything was covered so we don't have any airborne materials coming up. It's totally quarantined off, no kids, no students are allowed down on the track area at all," said Sunday.

The area used to be a crater, but the military bulldozed it and made it a dump site. Later Radford was built in the 1950's. The football and baseball fields were inside that landfill area.

"Its new information to us that the Navy's landfill operation extended as far toward the public schools as apparently it does," said Gary Gill, State Department of Health, Deputy Director for Environmental Health.

The contaminants were there for decades, but because they were buried the state says there was no danger.

"The public to the best of our knowledge was never exposed. The students weren't exposed to what was underneath the track. It was covered by clean soil," said Gill. "It would be very difficult for someone to breath in enough dirt to have a toxic impact."

They tested surface soil on the rest of Radford's campus and neighboring Makalapa Elementary School and results came back fine.

Radford is looking forward to the finish line on the track's construction, although it's tough to see considering they're not sure when the start date for the cleanup will be.

"The reward to all this is we'll have a brand new all weather track when it's done," said Sunday, who says the original completion date before the contamination discovery was July 2015. "It will only be an inconvenience if the project gets pushed back even further."

"The level of cleanup we want to assure is that at anytime and any future use of this property children won't be exposed to this in a way that can be harmful," said Gill.

The football and soccer teams will play all their games away next school year. Radford did not host any track and field events.

The Navy says it is committed to the cleanup and will pick up the bill to remove all the contaminants. At this point there is no timeline on how long that will take.

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