Large wildfire reveals toxic junkyard on state land that was supposed to be used for farming

The state is once again looking to revitalize the land for agriculture.
Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 5:29 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 28, 2021 at 5:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A large wildfire in Central Oahu on Monday exposed the illegal activities Pat Mackin and others have been warning state and law enforcement officials about for years.

“I kept telling them, you got a problem, you got a problem,” he said. “Here it is.”

Mackin was pointing to hundreds of burned skeletons of cars that were apparently part of an illegal dump site and chop shop. The scene has transformed the former pineapple field into a toxic wasteland.

“Look around, this is not Afghanistan. This is not Iraq. This is Poamoho,” Mackin added.

The state Agribusiness Development Corp. has owned the property since 2012, paying $13 million. It signed up a company to farm the land the following year.

But because the state wasn’t able to provide water for its tenant, the deal fell apart and the land fell into neglect, attracting squatters and the illegal activities.

ADC Executive Director James Nakatani said clearing the property of junked cars and squatters might pave the way for farming to resume as soon as this summer.

He said his agency plans to issue new leases for the land as early as tomorrow.

Nakatani told lawmakers last week that the agency has made improvements to irrigation systems to bring sufficient water to its Wahiawa farmlands.

It also added security and hauled out 150 cars last year, he said.

“We acknowledge there have been a lot of challenges at our Wahiawa properties. This includes clearing of illegal activities,” said Nakatani.

He said the fire burned away grass that hid the extent of the dumping and says the agency will help the new lessee hauled out the cars.

But it’s unclear how long it will take to remove the toxic chemicals that were burned with the cars.

“All the plastics, the fiberglass, the rubbers, the asbestos in the brakes ― all of that is on the ground now, burnt,” said environmental activist Carroll Cox.

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