A handicap access and two other portable bathrooms were removed from the Visitor Center area around 2 p.m. Tuesday, after Kona Lua officials received a letter from the Department of Land and Natural Resources saying they did not have the authorization to install the porta-potties on the mountain and would face fines of up to $10,000 a day if they were not taken down within 48 hours.
The porta-potties were donated to TMT protesters by residents and a few local businesses who wanted to show their support for the group that calls themselves protectors of Mauna Kea. The bathrooms were open to everyone -- including the hundreds of visitors who still make their way to the mountain -- even though the summit is closed.
The portable restrooms were installed ten days ago, after the Office of Mauna Kea Management closed the Visitor's Center and their bathrooms. State officials also locked several porta-potties they were maintaining and shut off the water. University of Hawai'i officials say the closure is the result of a lack of personnel and a strain on resources given the increase in visitors to the mountain since 2003 -- and especially following the Thirty Meter Telescope protests. A group that calls themselves Aloha 'Aina advocates, who have been on the mountain for the last 104 days, say removing the bathrooms just puts the Native Hawaiian critical habitat at risk.
"There's still hundreds of tourists and visitors who visit this area everyday. Even though there's no amenities, no bathrooms, water, information - other than what we provide for them. The intention was to have a safer place for this very critical habitat. We don't want visitors coming and defecating and using the lua on this mamane trees in this very critical native habitat and it was already starting to happen, so we were trying to be proactive about that and have the lua's ready for the community. It's very shameful that the state is resorting this low of a tactic. They're not providing any luas for the public up here and they're actually creating a sanitation hazard up here. They're doing more harm to this environment then they are protecting it. There's no aloha in this taking away the bathrooms," said Lakea Trask, an Aloha 'Aina advocate.
Kona Lua officials say they were not cited, but made two attempts to speak with DLNR agents Tuesday and have yet to hear back from them.
Right now, the nearest bathroom facility is six miles down the road from the Visitor's Center at Pu'u Hulu Hulu.