Disposal rules delay beach cleanups
Many shore areas also do not fall under the jurisdiction of either the city or state
The confusion and complexity over who deals with the ocean debris that collects along Oahu’s beaches was underscored over the New Year’s weekend when thousands of pounds of nets, plastics and other non-biodegradable flotsam washed ashore in Kailua. Both the state and the city handle ocean debris depending on where it is and what kind of threat it poses. But there are also times when no government agency will respond.
The state is responsible for debris in nearshore waters up to the so-called “high-water mark,” essentially an eyeball assessment of how far up the beach the water goes at high tide. Both the Department of Land and Natural Resources and city Department of Parks and Recreation recommend people report marine debris through DLNR’s online form at 808ne.ws/2DbewSd. The city is responsible for the removal of debris above that water line, and will pick up debris within its parks and rights of way that lead to unincorporated beaches or other shoreline. But due to personnel constraints, the city regularly will clean only within its defined parks. That was the case when large amounts of debris washed ashore along the length of Kailua Bay. Much of the waste moved north, past Kalama Beach Park, into an area known as “Castle’s.” Beachgoers and nonprofit
groups, including 808 Cleanups, sprang into action late on Jan. 1 and early Jan. 2, collecting the marine debris both in the water and on the sand and placing it in piles just above the high-water mark.
State and city officials, meanwhile, needed to determine what kind of debris was
accumulating and precisely where, and then consult with each other before taking action several days later. Parks Director Michele Nekota said it took several days for the city to address the Kailua Beach marine debris situation because department staff members “were busy taking care of their official duties after the New Year’s holiday weekend.” “Once the situation was assessed and after communicating with (DLNR),” the parks department took action, Nekota said in an email to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “Crews from several divisions (of Parks and Recreation) have both visited and cleaned areas along this corridor on several occasions,” Nekota said, noting that on Jan. 4 and 5, “our roving maintenance crew was able to haul a large portion of the accumulated debris. She added, “Our sand cleaning crew conducted operations at Kailua and Kalama beach parks during park closure hours.”
But what about beach areas like Castle’s? Several dozen volunteers, many of them members of 808 Cleanups, combed Castle’s and other unincorporated sections of beach, hauling much of the debris into or near trash bins at the beach parks, as well as at city-owned right of ways, including the alley known as the Kailuana “brow,” or beach right of way. Michael David Loftin, 808 Cleanups co-founder and executive director, said his group estimates that several dozen volunteers picked up 3,387 pounds of marine debris along Kailua Beach over 10 days. He requested and received permission to stack
debris from Castle’s at Kailua Beach Park, he said. Much of the rest of the debris was hauled to 808 Cleanups volunteers’ vehicles and trucked to an approved disposal site.
Loftin said his group understands the limitations faced by the state and city and is more than happy to take requests for calls to help. 808 Cleanups’ Facebook page acts almost like a referral site, with members putting out a call for help at different locations across the island almost daily. On Thursday, DLNR staff called him to take care of nets that had gathered on a private property in Kahaluu. Loftin said he disposed of 168 pounds of plastics by himself.
But Loftin said he wishes it were easier for both nonprofits and individual beachgoers to help out.
One hurdle is that marine debris is typically not allowed at city refuse disposal sites because those sites are designated for household waste. Nonprofits that want to dispose of marine debris must obtain permits from two departments — Parks and Recreation, and Environmental Services. Nonprofits “must complete a waiver form and provide 24-hour notice so license plates may be provided to waive the nonprofits’ tipping fees,” Environmental Services Deputy Director Timothy Houghton said in an emailed response to questions. The permits allow the nonprofits to dispose of the marine debris at HPOWER or at the Kapaa, Keehi and Kawailoa transfer stations, Houghton said.
The problem with HPOWER, Loftin said, is that it is on the opposite side of the island from Windward Oahu, where most of the debris collects. “That’s more time and fuel, and these people are giving up their time for free already,” Loftin said. “It’s slow, it’s bureaucratic … very frustrating.”
Kahi Pacarro, executive director of the nonprofit Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, said he would like the city to open up the Laie Convenience Center to marine debris disposal. Laie community members have expressed willingness to help clean up an increasing amount of debris at their beaches but being required to haul the debris elsewhere has discouraged such efforts, Pacarro said. “What it comes down to in the current state of affairs of who’s responsible or not, it’s all of us,” he said. “We can’t rely on the government and what we’re trying to do is empower the local residents to take care of it themselves.” Robin Bond, chairman of the Hawaii Ocean Safety Team, which promotes stewardship of Hawaii waters, said he wishes there were a one-stop, 24-hour hotline to deal with marine debris issues but he doesn’t believe it will happen anytime soon due to the lack of funding and motivation.
Ocean currents recently washed an unusually heavy amount of debris onto Kailua Beach, including large fishing nets, rope, a variety of plastic products and driftwood. Beachgoers and groups including 808 Cleanups began collecting the debris and piling it above the high-water mark on the north end of the beach on Jan. 1 and 2.
Ramon Vrielink pulled ashore plastic debris he saw bobbing in the surf at Kailua Beach on Jan. 2. His wife, Lianne Cameron-Vrielink, came over to help.