Honolulu Harbor Cleanup Begins Evaluation Phase

Sept. 6, 2001

The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the cleanup assessment for Honolulu Harbor began an accelerated fieldwork phase.

The targeted subsurface investigation and assessment is expected to take six to eight weeks and will be conducted by the Honolulu Harbor Participating Parties (HHPP) with state and federal oversight.

This assessment is part of a voluntary agreement the HHPP made with DOH in February 2001. The overall goal of this agreement is to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to address past, present, and future environmental contamination problems in the Honolulu Harbor area.

HHPP is currently comprised of these participating members: BHP Companies, Castle & Cooke (Dole Food Co. Inc. and Oahu Transport Co. Ltd.), Chevron, City Mill Company, DIL Trust, State of  Hawaii Department of Transportation Harbors Division, Hawaiian Electric Company, Phillips Petroleum Company, Equilon Enterprises, Texaco Inc., Tosco Corporation, and Unocal.

The DOH requested the EPA to provide technical support assistance in the cleanup effort. One important step is to characterize the extent of oil contamination in the area that may impact Honolulu Harbor. Another crucial requirement is to prevent oil releases into Honolulu Harbor.

Dr. Bruce Anderson, Director of Health, said, "I am pleased by the joint efforts of the Honolulu Harbor Participating Parties and regulatory agencies to thoroughly assess the extent of contamination and to clean up problems that pose a significant risk to public health or the environment on a comprehensive area-wide basis. This collaborative endeavor by this group should go a long way in reducing the potential risk posed by this contamination and allow harbor economic redevelopment to continue."

"The DOH and the EPA are working closely together to solve this problem. We are concerned about the potential threats to the environment from the oil contamination," said Keith Takata, the EPA's Pacific Southwest director for the Superfund program. "This assessment work is an important step and EPA will provide support to DOH's lead role for the harbor cleanup project," said Takata.

The HHPP has expressed its commitment to working cooperatively with DOH and EPA to address this problem.

DOH has divided the harbor area into four units to better address the project. The Iwilei unit (approximately 120 parcels of land) is bounded by Dillingham Boulevard, the Kapalama canal and Nuuanu stream. Multiple parties have owned or operated portions of the Honolulu Harbor Iwilei unit site over the last 100 years.

It is believed that leaks from storage tanks and pipelines and oil conveyed by drains and sewers have contaminated the Honolulu Harbor area. Significant subsurface oil contamination may be the result of former and current oil storage and transportation that exist in the Iwilei unit of the Honolulu Harbor project area. Current regulations prohibit operating facilities from releasing petroleum from their facilities.

Many pipelines have been abandoned that still may contain oil. The subsurface plume of oil is influenced by the storm events, groundwater flows, tidal fluctuations, and physical barriers resulting in discharges at various locations in the harbor at various times of the year.

DOH previously entered into a voluntary cleanup agreement with the Hawaii Department of Transportation and five other Honolulu Harbor property owners or operators in February 1998. The proposed redevelopment of Honolulu Harbor helped drive the need for this initial agreement. With the latest agreement signed, the original group of six participating parties has increased to 12.

The assessment and preliminary response to the site has been a coordinated effort between the state, the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Source: U.S. EPA - Region 9

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