‘Hot, hard’ work: EPA crews begin months-long effort to remove toxic materials from Lahaina

Hazardous waste removed from fire-ravaged Lahaina is being transported to the Ukumehame Gun Range.
Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 5:32 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 1, 2023 at 6:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hazardous waste removed from fire-ravaged Lahaina is being transported to the Ukumehame Firing Range, where it will be staged before being shipped to specialized sites on the U.S. continent for disposal.

Work to remove the toxic materials began this week, after the effort to recover remains wrapped up.

Tom Dunkelman, EPA incident commander, said toxic materials being removed from Lahaina include batteries, solvent, pesticides and other toxic items that may pose a risk to people and the environment.

EPA: Clearing toxic materials from Lahaina expected to take ‘several months’

The materials are being placed in 55-gallon drums and later containers. The EPA says it could be tons of toxic material. The work is to ensure it’s safe for future crews and residents.

“We just want to ensure the safety of the people who are going to come behind us,” he said.

Dunkelman added that there are about 80 EPA workers on the project currently. They must wear full protective gear including Tyvek suits, respirators and gloves to search the ground for hazards by hand.

“We’re adding more teams next week. It’s just been a hard, tedious work and they go through the properties to find whatever containers they can,” Dunkelman said.

“It’s very hard work. It’s hot work. I think all the EPA employees are anxious to be here to help the community recover. We take our responsibility very seriously and we are doing our work to start the recovery process.”

EPA has also hired 25 cultural monitors who go with the teams and evaluate a property before they enter.

“We’re very aware of the cultural and the historical significance of these properties,” said Dunkelman.

“We’ve hired locally who accompany our teams and advise him of any cultural times that could potentially be on the property to make sure that our work does not further disturb those items,” he added.