State issues warning letter on Kamehameha Schools dump sites

State issues warning letter on Kamehameha Schools dump sites
Published: Jul. 23, 2014 at 3:58 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 23, 2014 at 4:11 AM HST
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Carroll Cox
Carroll Cox

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Health Department is giving Kamehameha Schools 60 days to clean up three alleged illegal dump sites on its Kapalama Heights campus.

State inspectors also are requiring the multi-billion dollar trust to report the names of construction companies that were allowed to dump tons of material on school property.

"Removed tires were discovered during clean up ... Workers were observed loading other types of waste, such as concrete trash receptacles and corroded dumpsters," the department said in a warning letter it issued to the school.

"Approximately 15 toilets were already inside the roll-off containers."

The state investigation comes after environmental activist Carroll Cox photographed the dump sites back in June and filed a complaint with the Health Department.

"Most of the landfills I've dealt with are fly-by-nighters. People seizing an opportunity, an open hole, no one's looking dumping. But this was a systematic practice," he said.

Kamehameha Schools said it takes the matter seriously and is conducting its own internal investigation. It said it's cooperating with the state.

"Reports of the debris and alleged dumping activities that were brought to Kamehameha Schools' attention several weeks ago are of serious concern. Such activity and behavior is unacceptable," the trust said in an email.

In its letter, the Health Department officials said they were on campus in June initially to investigate two of the sites and were told by school officials that there were no other illegal dump locations.

But they wound up finding a third site that the trust didn't disclosed to them. At the time of the discovery of the third site, inspectors said Kamehameha Schools employees were on at the location, carting away thousands of pounds of dumped materials.

"That's a cover up. I say this is a cover up because they didn't report this to the state health department," said Cox.

Founded by the 1884 will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, Kamehameha Schools is a charitable trust set up to educate native Hawaiians. It's the state's largest private landowner with over 360,000 acres of land and prides itself over its stewardship of Pauahi's legacy.

The trust faces fines of up to $10,000 per violation per day for activity that former and current staffers say went on for years.

"Someone should go down there with a metal detector," retired Kamehameha Schools carpenter Ronnie Kang said in June.

Kang and other former and current staffers said that buried in the first two dump sites are appliances, car parts and batteries. They say the dumps were initially used for green wastes but was later used by the school and local construction companies as a cheaper way of discarding old construction materials and even more toxic materials.

One employee provided Hawaii News Now with a cell phone video of a local contractor dumping hundreds of pounds of construction rubble on campus last year. He said his supervisors ignored his complaints when he brought it up with them.

The Health Department is now requiring Kamehameha Schools to provide a report on any potential hazardous waste the dump site may contain.

It's also requiring the trust to dig exploratory trenches to find out what's buried in the dump and how large the actual dumps are.

"That's coming from the schools and that's where it goes. It's the magic dump that takes care of everything," Kang said.

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