Kolekole park closed due to high lead lev­els

Source of the con­tam­i­na­tion is un­known

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By JEFF HANSEL

Mayor Harry Kim’s of­fice an­nounced Tues­day af­ter­noon that Kolekole Beach Park was closed af­ter tests showed high lev­els of lead in the soil.

The Hawaii County web­site shows the “park will be closed un­til fur­ther no­tice pend­ing Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion area as­sess­ment.”

The park is lo­cated off High­way 19 on Old Ma­malo­hoa High­way, just past the 14-mile marker, near a stream. It in­cludes a pavil­ion, out­door show­ers and camp­ing.

The mayor’s of­fice

said the clo­sure is the re­sult of lead-con­tam­i­nated soil in ex­cess of state “en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tion lev­els” through­out much of the park.

Lead lev­els in the park were, on av­er­age, 465 mg/km, said John Peard, re­me­di­a­tion project man­ager for the state Depart­ment of Health’s Haz­ard Eval­u­a­tion and Emer­gency Re­sponse Of­fice. The fed­eral stan­dard for daily ex­po­sure to bare soil around a house is 400 mg/km, Peard said, and the state stan­dard is 200 mg/km.

Lead can af­fect child­hood growth, de­vel­op­ment, hear­ing, speech, be­hav­ior, at­ten­tion and learn­ing, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion.

But Peard said lead also can cause health prob­lems in adults be­cause its ef­fects are cu­mu­la­tive. The CDC notes there is no safe blood level of lead for chil­dren.

The state de­part­ments of Health and Trans­porta­tion are con­fer­ring on ways to solve the prob­lem. The lead lev­els were dis­cov­ered dur­ing test­ing by the DOT. Ini­tially, Peard said, the DOT found lead around the Umauma Bridge project.

That trig­gered test­ing at Hakalau Stream Bridge — cur­rently closed be­cause of un­safe in­fras­truc­ture — and at Kolekole Beach Park. Lead was found at all three sites.

Peard said the Kolekole lead might have come from paint that used to coat the “re­pur­posed” rail­road bridge. But it’s pos­si­ble, he said, that some of the lead in the soil came from vehicles that once used leaded fu­els.

He said it’s good that the soil of con­cern is mostly cov­ered by grass. Bare soil is the type most likely to cause lead ex­po­sure. Ac­cord­ing to the DOH, nat­u­ral back­ground lead lev­els in soil are typ­i­cally about 10-75 mg/km.

Should fam­i­lies who spent sig­nif­i­cant time at the park get their young chil­dren tested for lead ex­po­sure?

Peard said it wouldn’t be a prob­lem if a child walked through the grass a cou­ple of times. But if the child spent sig­nif­i­cant time dig­ging and play­ing in the soil, es­pe­cially re­peat­edly, par­ents might want to get that checked.

A sim­ple blood test can de­ter­mine the level of ex­po­sure.

That won’t con­firm that lead came from Kolekole be­cause many homes in Hawaii still have lead paint.

The sit­u­a­tion of most con­cern, Peard said, is di­rect in­ges­tion, such as a child play­ing in bare soil who puts his fin­gers in his mouth.

Ac­cord­ing to the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, in­gest­ing even small amounts of lead via dust in the air or di­rectly by mouth can be harm­ful.

Peard said of­fi­cials do not think there’s any lead in the stream or in the rocks that line the stream.

He ex­pects a de­ci­sion to be made within a few months, af­ter ad­di­tional test­ing, about how to make the site safe to re­open.

Cour­tesy of HAWAII DEPART­MENT OF HEALTH

Kolekole Beach Park is closed un­til fur­ther no­tice be­cause of lead con­tam­i­na­tion.

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