Copper Thieves Blamed for Ewa Hazmat Call

EWA (KHNL) - A city of Honolulu renovation project plagued by thieves and vandals is hit again, this time triggering a Hazmat response.

About two months ago, the city appealed to the public to watch out for suspicious activity at the old Ewa Sugar Mill complex. Despite that plea, criminals once again manage to slip in.

A Hazardous Materials team moves in, after workers arriving at a job site in Ewa find hoses hanging from the transformers on utility poles. Police suspect copper thieves.

"They ran water hose up into the transformer itself," Lt. Daniel Ford, Honolulu Police Department, said. "Now, the oil's going to float on top of the water. So they pumped it with water so they can bring the oil up to a level, and they can then drain it off so they can get to the copper on the inside."

The Hazmat response doesn't sit well with nearby Lanakila Baptist Schools.

"A lot of our PE is outside," Rick Denham, principal said. "And, of course, our break time and our lunches are all taken outside in our courtyard. So I'm very concerned about the possible contamination."

Tests are conducted to see whether PCBs are present. The chemical mixture is considered extremely harmful.

"Some of these transformers are the older models, which do have PCBs which will eventually kill you," Ford said. "And they're not taking that into account."

Repeated break-ins and vandalism at the old Ewa Sugar Mill complex are causing delays in the renovation and driving up costs.

"I'm very disturbed that things continue to be delayed because it would just be so wonderful to see something that's such an eyesore that would be turned into something that would be beneficial for the community," Denham said.

Fire officials say their testing found no hazardous chemicals in the fluid or soil. The city is waiting for a damage assessment from the contractor.