DOH study shows no soil hazard at possible homeless camp site

DOH study shows no soil hazard at possible homeless camp site

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The test results are back on soil samples from the site of a proposed homeless camp at Sand Island. Health officials said the testing revealed that there is no threat to humans from the contaminants, but the city is now reconsidering the temporary facility.

The city had hoped to turn an empty lot on Sand Island into a temporary camp for about 100 homeless last year, but then concerns surfaced about contamination in the soil. The Hawaii Department of Health tested four areas within the site for arsenic, lead, and other potential hazards.

"It is a viable site. The contaminant levels were low enough so that it would be accessible," explained Georgette Deemer, the city's deputy managing director.

The city, however, is having second thoughts about the facility now that its Housing First program is up and running.

"They've been able to place 37 family units, including 43 individuals, into housing first, and so that's good progress for us and so we'll go back and reevaluate if the need for Sand Island is still there," Deemer said.

Another issue is the price tag. The city has set aside $750,000 to fix up the area.

"There is still some clean up to do on the site. There's kiawe, there's construction material. We also have to look at what our security costs are going to be," said Deemer.

"We feel that it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars as well as a danger to the houseless community placed out there. It's very remote, it's dusty, it's dry," said Kathryn Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.

Xian said said the potential liabilities to those in the camp far outweigh any benefits.

"Regardless of whether the site is actually safe from toxins, we still think that the Sand Island encampment idea is an extremely bad idea," Xian said.

City officials plan to consult with stakeholders and the community before making a decision.

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