Hawaiian homesteaders on Molokai say spill of hundreds of gallons of fuel made them sick
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian homesteaders on Molokai say that hundreds of gallons of fuel spilled in their neighborhood years ago is making them sick.
And they say the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which was responsible for the dumping, ignored their repeated pleas to clean it up.
“This neighborhood has been experiencing numerous medical conditions, neighbors began to be sick, causing respiratory conditions, asthma, hospitalization,” said Molokai homesteader Sybil Lopez.
The fuel ― stored in about a dozen, 50-gallon drums ― was dumped there back in 2015 by a DHHL contractor who was hired to haul away abandoned cars.
Some of the drums had been split open, spilling fuel onto the ground and contaminating the soil.
“It’s sickening,” said environmental activist Carroll Cox.
“This is a state agency supposedly perpetuating the good for Hawaiians when in reality it is treating it’s land like any other dump.”
Added Molokai homesteader Tara Horner: “The lack of urgency really was disappointing for us as people who could have possibly been slowly poisoned for the last eight years.”
During a meeting of the Hawaiian Homes Commission on Wednesday, DHHL interim Chair Ikaika Anderson apologized to beneficiaries and questioned why the DHHL’s previous management allowed the problem to fester.
Anderson said he first heard of the dumping late last month and traveled to Molokai to inspect the property and haul away the fuel.
He said he then called the Department of Health, which cleaned up the land and removed the contaminated dirt.
Anderson added that one of the neighbors got so sick from the fumes that he put him up in a hotel during the clean-up effort, paying the $5,300 hotel bill out of his own pocket.
“This fuel sat in this truck since at least 2015. Why? Why was this allowed to happen? I can’t answer that. But again, the Anderson administration at the DHHL addressed a dirty, eight-year old problem in two weeks,” he said.
Anderson said he’s not worried that some homesteaders may sue the department for their illnesses.
“I’m more worried and more concerned about the health of my beneficiaries,” he said. “If this man is sick ― really, really sick ― money doesn’t fix that.”
The DOH is now conducting an investigation into the spill.
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