Coast Guard disposes of hazardous waste.
An environmental cleanup prompted by the Coast Guard will continue until mid-November as the last of the hazardous waste is removed from a cliff at Ilio Point and shipped to the mainland.
For nearly two weeks, workers have been using a large vacuum to suck up the remains of equipment that was dumped by a Coast Guard station while it was active prior to 1966.
“The Coast Guard dumped [the materials] there, so it’s our responsibility to clean it up,” said Gene Maestas, public affairs officer for the U.S Coast Guard 14th District in Honolulu.
Testing of the site in 2009 showed high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the soil. When testing was conducted offshore, however, no contaminants were found in the water, sediments, invertebrates or fish.
“We’re very lucky [the station] dumped something that’s not more readily in the marine environment,” said Jay Silberman, project manager from the U.S. Coast Guard Civil Engineering Unit. “We want to clean it up before it gets into [the water].”
Silberman said the PCBs chemical adheres tightly to soil – almost like glue – and requires a solvent to separate the two. Because PCB does not dissolve in water, the contactor, Pacific Commercial Services Inc., is removing the contaminated materials with a vacuum that reaches 18 inches below the surface.
The materials will be bagged and sealed and shipped to the mainland.
The dumpsite was discovered in 2008 by Silberman and a colleague, who later put in a request for funding to conduct testing and a cleanup project. Estimates put the cost of the operation at about $600,000, which is fully covered by the Coast Guard.
Silberman said the debris – electrical equipment, pipes, iron metal, wood, glass and brick – covers about 100 cubic yards of the cliff, 70 yards of which is hazardous.
The public is advised to stay clear of the site until the operation is complete.