Kolekole park closed due to high lead levels
Source of the contamination is unknown
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.
Kolekole Beach Park is closed until further notice because of lead contamination.