WAIPAHU, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many of Oahu's streams and canals carrying water and runoff into the ocean are increasingly being clogged with trash, raising questions about cleanup and maintenance efforts.
“Horrendous people are dumping trash, and even government and transfer stations and convenience centers where you deliver your trash, some are situated close to streams and wetlands,” environmental activist Carroll Cox said, adding that the wind blows items to those areas.
Wildlife is even affected by the pollution – from plastic bags and shopping carts to medical waste -- and illegal dumping in the streams and canals. Homeless people who live along stream banks have also contributed to the issues.
Cox said he is frustrated by the way government agencies – tasked with maintaining certain streams and canals – are handling the situation, saying they're not doing enough to police and clean up the trash.
"We're going to have to change our ways and become more aggressive in cleaning it up," Cox said. "It's an eyesore, but not sore enough to motivate us to get something done."
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources does monitor streams and channels under its jurisdiction and will clean up accumulative trash.
"We're here to protect our natural, cultural, historical resources so to see people treat the land ocean in that way it's really hurtful," said Guy Chang, enforcement officer for the DLNR. "I don't think words can describe what we go through every day seeing this, but we make no excuses, we try to get our job done."
More needs to be done, officials say, but the problem is that there aren't enough personnel and financial resources.
The City and County of Honolulu's Department of Facilities Maintenance, responsible for maintaining the Waipahu stream, conducted a cleanup on Monday, but with "scarce manpower and resources."
"Taxpayer-funded resources are limited and it is expensive to keep up with illegal dumping," city spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke said in an email.
The DLNR said it gets less than 1 percent of the state budget, making it difficult and daunting to take responsibility for all the land it handles.
"It's a constant struggle to maintain the quality of these resources that are under our charge," said Curt Cotrell of the DLNR.
All sides agree though that the community needs to be better educated to not only help with community-based cleanups, but to prevent pollution altogether.