HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Work to remove toxic soil buried beneath Factory Street in Kalihi is being pushed back a few weeks -- just as alarming new details are coming out about the lead contamination under the asphalt.
The forgotten lead danger was rediscovered in 2017 but since then little has been done to fix it.
That’s about to change.
The feds are expediting a $1.3 million clean-up -- now expected to start sometime in October -- warning public health could be at risk.
Tests show the highest concentrations of lead are close to where Factory Street meets North King. The project site itself is about 6.400 square feet in size.
The work will stop at Waterhouse.
Close to 2000 people live within a tenth of a mile of this site. Officials with the EPA say the levels of lead there are so high someone could potentially be exposed simply walking down the street.
Just beneath the road’s surface is a toxic dump site. It’s believed the soil was polluted by company that manufactured lead fishing weights.
Normal levels of lead found in someone’s backyard are around 200 mg/kg. It’s slightly higher in urban settings.
Samples taken by the state in 2017 revealed concentrations of more than 24,000 mg/kg under the road and along the shoulder of Factory Street.
Paving over the orphaned road helped for a bit -- but now it’s deteriorating.
Councilman Joey Manahan says that’s putting people’s health in jeopardy.
“For decades this area’s been contaminated,” said Manahan. “To the point where it’s affected children in the area.”
Back in the 90s doctors diagnosed four children with lead poisoning.
Then in 2016 and 2018 the state identified two more children with elevated blood lead levels.
It’s still unclear if the contaminated soil played a role in the most recent cases. However, both children lived within a few feet of the site.
On Monday, the councilman spoke to residents about the upcoming work.
Some folks told him they’d been filling potholes themselves.
Officials at the Hawaii Department of Health say an exact start date has not yet been scheduled, “pending issuance of the legal warrant EPA needs for authority to access the property.”
Once the project starts officials say the plan is to remove the asphalt and 12 inches of soil.
“They’re going to truck it away,” said Manahan. “Then they’re going to resurface the street, reengineer the street.”
Work is expected to last about a month.