HONOLULU (KHNL) - Federal authorities are getting even tougher on those who harm Hawaii's environment. Not only could polluters face criminal prosecution, they could suffer civil penalties as well.
In May, federal agents raided a 10-acre site in Leeward Oahu. Investigators say the lessee would get rid of people's hazardous materials -- such as car batteries, oil, gasoline and antifreeze -- by burying them in the ground.
The Environmental Protection Agency calls the potential toll from such violations enormous.
"Ground water contamination from the illegal disposal of hazardous waste threatens our water supply," Granta Nakayama, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said. "And we all know that a polluted environment threatens the tourist industry."
Now, the EPA has issued a civil enforcement order against the property owners. It requires them to clean the mess up at their own cost.
"We're looking at an initial estimate of close to a million dollars for the assessment and the cleanup of material," Wayne Nastri, EPA Regional Administrator, said. "But, you know, on these type of properties, this 10-acre property, we don't know if we've seen everything. This cost could rapidly escalate."
The owners could lose their property if they don't.
"EPA's civil enforcement measures present another valuable tool for us to ensure that Hawaii's environment remains pure and that our families continue to live safely," Ed Kubo, US Attorney, said.
In an unrelated case in Leeward Oahu, investigators say they found Tetrachloroethylene, a strong industrial chemical, inside several 55-gallon drums. Jerome Anches and Stephen Swift are accused of illegally transporting and storing hazardous waste.