HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal emergency response team has been deployed to Kalihi to patch potholes after a toxic dumpsite buried under the road was partially exposed.
Over the past 48 hours, crews have been filling potholes near the intersection of Factory and King streets. Work wrapped up about noon Wednesday.
Health officials confirm the soil under the road is contaminated with dangerous levels of lead left behind by an old fishing lure factory.
Earlier this month, a major clean-up of the area was postponed.
The emergency work is a Band-aid fix ― intended to keep residents from getting sick.
“What we would be worried about most on this site would be if there was a kid in an area with exposed soil playing, putting their hands in their mouth putting toys in their mouth,” said EPA emergency response program coordinator Amanda Pease.
The last time potholes were patched on the road was two years ago.
Complicating things: Factory Street is an orphan. The owner of the private roadway died years ago. Since then, neither the city or the state have taken responsibility for it.
Officials say if soil under the road is left uncovered, levels of lead are so high someone could potentially be exposed simply walking down the street.
“As long as asphalt and covers are intact and there is not a way to be in contact with contaminated soil it’s really minimal risk,” said Pease.
A project to clean up the area permanently was expected to start in September.
On Wednesday,, many neighbors were surprised to learn that work has been put off until next year.
“It’s taken so long,” said resident Estelita Dimacali.
She told HNN the delays are concerning.
“My niece she get problems with the health. And even me," she said.
EPA officials say they can’t start work on the road until they find a place to dispose of most of the contaminated soil. Pease says the plan is to ship 10% of it considered “hazardous waste” to a facility on the mainland. But it’s still unknown where the rest of the soil and debris with lower lead levels will go.
The material could fill about 18 shipping containers.
“It’s limited on Oahu,” said Pease. “We’re talking to facilities on the mainland as well.”
Work to remove the lead contamination from this site is now expected to begin between January and April 2020.