With no clean-up planned, trash piling up near Nimitz viaduct
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - From the highway, drivers only get a glimpse of what's below: Beneath the Airport Viaduct are countless piles of rotting garbage.
"Sometimes when you're down there, it smells like something's dead," said Justin Phillips, Institute for Human Services outreach team manager.
And the mess is spreading.
The DOT used to come out to the Nimitz viaduct every six months to clean up trash, much of which is left behind by homeless living in the area. But last year, the state put those efforts on hold, and a clean-up hasn't been done in nine months.
On Tuesday, Hawaii News Now spotted trash all over, including bags full of trash half submerged in the marsh.
"We don't know if there's hypodermic needles in there, human waste," Philips said. "Things like that are being pushed out into the water."
State Department of Transportation officials said the last time crews picked up trash in the area was September 2015.
The clean-ups were put on hold when the state modified its approach to addressing homelessness in response to potential legal challenges and concerns about loss of federal funding.
Other factors also played a part.
For one, there's the cost.
In the past, the state has forked over between $250,000 and $300,000 to clean the viaduct every six months.
State officials say siphoning that kind of money from the DOT's budget is a challenge.
Another issue has to do with determining who does what.
"Some of it is under the Department of Transportation, but there are some surrounding jurisdictions in that area that are City and County," said Scott Morishige, the governor's homeless coordinator.
State Sen. Glenn Wakai, who represents the area, says the trash is more than just an eyesore. He said steps need to be taken to remedy what's become a health and safety hazard.
"We saw some who actually put their trash in bags," Wakai said. "There's obviously some people who are more responsible than others. If we could come up with a designated site for trash disposal maybe this wouldn't be as much of a problem as it is today."
It's estimated 300 homeless people live in and around the viaduct. With more moving in, conditions are getting worse.
The state has not set a date for its next clean-up effort.
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