Hirono, Environmentalists Seek Funding for Bellows Cleanup

Rep. Mazie Hirono
Rep. Mazie Hirono
Dean Otsuki | Suzanne Frazer
Dean Otsuki | Suzanne Frazer

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Community members are calling for the complete removal of 9,000 tons of garbage and potentially contaminated soil as well as toxic substances at Bellows Air Force Station.KHNL News 8's Mary Simms joins us with Congresswoman Mazie Hirono to see what she plans to do about it.

Mary Simms: Good morning. I'm here with Congresswoman Mazie Hirono. Also I'm here with Suzanne and Dean and they are from an organization that really works hard here in Hawaii to clean up the beaches. You guys have done a lot at Bellows. Today Congresswoman Hirono will be meeting with members of the Air Force and Marine Corps. Tell me why you are going to be meeting with them?

Mazie Hirono: There's a 1940's dump site at Bellows that needs to be cleaned up, and the community really wants that to happen. And the Air Force, and now the Marines who will be taking over that area, I think they would like to do that too. This issue really is money, so I put in an appropriation request to Congress to make that happen. That's just the first step, it's going to take a lot of effort to get that into an appropriations bill.

MS: I know that a lot of community members are very glad that you've gotten involved. What are some of the concerns that have been voiced to you that prompted you to get involved - to request this 2.5 million dollars in funding?

MH: I'm always concerned about any area that the public has access to. I want to make sure that the safety and health of our communities are attended to. This is a site was a dump site, it's infused with metals and oil-infused compacted soil. There's a concern in the community that this is a danger. In fact, there is a sign posted at the site that says "danger". People don't know why there's a danger, but it's really all the things that are in that site. So I'd like to see it cleaned up. It's in response to a meeting that was held in January, one of my staff people attended and that's when the community was told that the military was not going to do anything further to remediate the site.

MS: Dean and Suzanne, you were both involved in that meeting in January, when you were told that the community would have to wait and there would be necessarily no further action. What was your reaction at that time?

Dean Otsuki: It was a big surprise. I think that the whole Waimanalo community thought that they were going to announce that they were going to clean the dump site out. And when they announced that there was no further action that was going to be taken by the Air Force, there was a very overwhelming majority of the people - everybody was pretty much against that decision by the military.

MS: And that's because too I know they have been investigating the site for over ten years, spent millions of dollars on it so you guys assumed... what would be the outcome?

Suzanne Frazer: Well I was surprised because in the previous reporting of 2004 and 2005 they didn't recommend that no further action should be taken because they had seen that the levels were too high. They exceeded federal and state screening levels of certain chemicals and it looked like they were going to recommend to take it out. And then, here in 2007 there was no further data to back up this total change. To say, were just going to leave it there and we don't know why, because the data doesn't support that.

MS: I know when we called you for this interview, and let you know that today Congresswoman Hirono would be meeting with members of the military to discuss funding, you were both very happy about that.

SF: Ecstatic. I mean that's the best thing that could happen at this site is that 8500 tons of trash and all those toxins get cleared away and that area of the fence gets taken down, the area gets opened up and that we don't have a possible environmental disaster in the future when the erosion advances (which it already is) and when the sea levels rise with global warming. We all know that the sea levels are rising so much per year, it's definitely a problem and it definitely has to come out.

Dean Otsuki and Suzanne Frazer are with Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii.