January 11, 2018 DOH/HEER Update
John Peard, Remediation Project Manager with the Hazard Evaluation & Emergency Response Office (HEER Office) of the Department of Health provided the following update:
After the lead elevations in soil were discovered in the main Kolekole park area, Department of Transportation's (DOT) environmental consultant (ESI) was further directed to conduct additional sampling for lead residues around all the edges of the park (outside the areas that had already been sampled). Good news was that this additional sampling did not reveal more extensive/widespread lead elevations over applicable HDOH Action levels (200 mg/kg) than was first identified in the main park area (i.e. the areas identified in the Fact Sheet posted of your website). Amongst other areas, this additional sampling confirmed lead was not elevated along the stream bank areas. An assessment was also conducted of air-borne lead exposures for grounds maintenance work at the park (ie. during mowing the grass and weed-eating tasks) and this sampling did not reveal significant airborne lead hazard from those operations. Consequently, the extent of the area of elevated lead contamination at the park is now documented and airborne lead exposures for maintenance workers is reportedly not a concern for typical tasks.
In early October 2017, a meeting was held between the Parks Department, DOT, DOT’s environmental consultant (ESI), and the HEER Office, as the new Parks Director had expressed interest in moving forward to re-open the park as soon as may be possible. At that meeting, the status of the sampling and hazard was discussed, as well as options available to re-open the Park, which all had certain limitations (e.g. fencing off all the grassy areas known to be contaminated and allowing access just along stream banks, installing some sort of temporary pathways through the Park with ground cloth and ground cover and limiting access along these path areas only, and digging up all the contaminated soil/sod and hauling to West Hawaii Landfill and replacing with clean soil/new sod). All these have considerable limitations, and would take time to implement too, such as putting up a fence or putting in temporary pathways or excavating all soil and replacing. In some situations (e.g. more dry areas), just covering any bare soils with sod and establishing prohibitions on any digging provides an adequate barrier/control from significant exposure to contaminated soils (at these levels), but unfortunately in this case, the grassy areas are reportedly oftentimes wet and soggy, and visible soil can work its way up through the sod in these wet conditions to stick to feet or shoes … and this kind of potential obvious soil exposure raises concerns for Parks and park users. The Park is generally not staffed or supervised, so implementing/ensuring restrictions such as no digging, no camping, etc. could also be somewhat problematic for Parks.
One decision supported by DOT-Highways at the meeting was to move ahead as soon as possible to determine the full vertical extent of lead contamination (i.e. depth below ground level) in the grassy areas where the horizontal extent of lead contamination has now been delineated (however, just the top 0-3 inches of soil in these areas was tested initially). It is hoped that the lead contamination (above action levels) only extends a relatively short distance vertically, say 0-6 inches at most, and if so, a good long-term solution that could be implemented would be to just come in and scrape off the top 6 inches of sod/soil in the grassy areas impacted, take this to the West HI landfill, and replace with clean soil and new sod. It was estimated by the environmental contractor that the additional vertical sampling work (and lab testing and reporting on it) would take about a month to complete, and they were going to send me a sampling plan to review for that work. They will have to bring in a mechanical soil coring device (geoprobe) from Oʻahu to do the vertical delineation sampling in the park. Once this data is available, it would allow further discussion and decision on options for handling the lead elevations in the Park.
Unfortunately, since this meeting occurred, DOT has reportedly not yet been able to renew its contract with the environmental consultant to do the additional vertical delineation sampling (due to funding issues), which had been agreed on as the next step to help determine a path forward for any necessary lead-in-soil remediation. Last I heard, DOT was hoping to get that new contract worked out by about the end of January, 2018. When additional funding is available, the environmental consultant will presumably conduct the vertical delineation sampling in the areas documented with elevated lead levels, then this information will be used to help determine a final option for handling the lead contamination in soil … so the park could be re-opened. Those options would presumably include either complete removal of contaminated soil and replacement with clean soil/turf (especially if the contamination was confirmed to be shallow), or some sort of covering/capping option if the contamination is much deeper and complete removal would be technically challenging or prohibitive from a cost standpoint.