By Joseph Ryan Jr, & Carroll Cox
Mercury is in our harbors, mercury is in our fish, mercury is at abandoned state and military sites, and now there's mercury at Pu'uwai Momi housing complex and spreading across our Islands. Who is responsible? Apparently no one until the police dragged a child from his classroom for questioning and arrested him.
For years we have been hearing about mercury found in the fish caught in our waters. Mercury has even been removed from dental fillings because it is suspected of making people sick. How then, did such a large amount get into our houses and on our sidewalks?
On, Monday, March 12, 2001, an alert elementary school teacher discovered a child playing with mercury. Her prompt reporting of the incident led to the discovery of an entire housing complex contaminated with mercury, as well as a playground, school, public parks, and homes where the children played and lived. The emergency response team also discovered the poisoning, by contact and ingestion, of dozens of children. At least two of the children now have dangerous levels of mercury in their systems.
Interviews of parents and children by EnviroWatch, Inc. indicate the mercury was originally found by children playing in an abandoned building in November 2000, and distributed to their playmates over the next several months. The State has estimated that over one and one-half gallons, or more than thirty pounds, of mercury was leaking out of deteriorating gauges and pumping equipment in an abandoned and dilapidated pumphouse once owned by the US Navy and transferred to the State of Hawaii in 1962.
There were no fences or barriers to prevent children from playing in and around the pumphouse and there were no "no trespassing" signs posted on the property. The building was unsecured even though, as far back as October, 1997, officials of the Navy, the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) the Hawaii Department of Defense (National Guard), and many other agencies knew of environmental contamination problems, as well as an Underground Storage Tank (UST) located on the property.
These government agencies also knew of and had access to Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) funds and Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) funds administered by the US Corps of Engineers. However, as divulged in documents obtained from the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, the "cost of the pumphouse cleanup was nearly equal to the value of the land". Therefore, the agencies involved were not willing to, and appear not to have applied for available cleanup funds or to have instituted any cleanup of the site.
Instead, the area, including the pumphouse, was allowed to become a playground where kids would go and catch scorpions and bugs. Reportedly some of their parents even played there when they were kids almost twenty years ago. The roof and some of the doors to the pumphouse collapsed, becoming an easy invitation for children to enter. A structure associated with the pumphouse and resembling a tree house was built nearby, also attracting kids to play.
Now, after the fact, the State has finally cordoned off the area to prevent people from entering, and DLNR's Chairman
Gilbert Coloma Agaran ordered the Department of Conservation Law Enforcement Division to conduct daily patrols around
the pumphouse. Why couldn't these measures be taken forty years ago when the property was first abandoned?
AND THEN THEY STARTED ARRESTING THE CHILDREN
In Hawaii, "a person commits the offense of burglary in the second degree if the person intentionally enters or remains unlawfully in a building with the intent to commit therein a crime against a person or against property rights" . To prove the felony offense of burglary, the people accused must have intentionally and knowingly entered a building with the intent of taking or damaging the property of another.
The old Navy pumphouse is an abandoned building, missing parts of its' roof and its' doors, hence, the property inside the abandoned building was also abandoned. The Navy didn't want it in 1962 and gave it to the State. The Land Management Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources didn't want it in 1982 when they gave it to State Parks Division. The State Parks Division did not want it on February 25th 2000, when the Board of Land and Natural Resources transferred the site to the State Department of Defense.
Now, according to the Honolulu Police Department's Public Information
Officer, because the State Department of Defense
reported a burglary, Police Officers went to a school, pulled a 10 year-old child from class and arrested him!
FAMILIES AND NEIGHBORS
Families and Neighbors have also been made to suffer. On April 11, 2001, The State testified at a public meeting before the Environmental Council that people were not evacuated from the area. However, the fact is that the people were denied entry to their homes by the State Sheriff and local police while their personal property was seized and destroyed. To further the intimidation, the State's National Guard was posted at the site without declaration of a disaster or other emergency. Families were separated when some were locked in the complex and some were locked out. Residents were even denied access to their medication for disabilities or serious illness such as diabetes.
The State provided an arbitrarily and inadequate urinalysis and blood test to exposure victims without follow up care. They mixed up inventories of belongings and failed to communicate instructions to many of the families involved.
THE GOATS ARE CAUGHT
It is the State's lack of environmental investigative and enforcement capabilities that is the root cause of the physical arrest and detention of children and the displacement of families and their belongings.
The pumphouse site contains an underground fuel storage tank (UST) and PCB's. The failure of the Department of Health
to pursue the federal law requirement that all UST owners were to have reported the existence and completed the closure of
their UST by December of 1998 led to the poisoning. Walter Ozawa, Director of the Office of Veteran's Services, wrote, in February of 1999, that the site
includes "a parcel which contains two abandoned structures which housed pumping equipment and a small underground
storage tank ("UST") which provided fuel for the pumps." State agencies failed to report the UST. The site is also claimed
to be contaminated by PCB's. The State's lack of investigative capabilities at the Department of Health failed to discover
the UST or the PCB. Compliance with federal law would have caused the removal of the UST and led to the removal of the
mercury and PCB contamination of the site.
Now, rather than coordinating responsible medical treatment for the children, the State of
Hawaii seeks to place responsibility for the mercury contamination on the victims of the exposure. The State has caused the arrest and detention of
children for playing in a state park!
SILENCING OF THE LAMBS
We have attempted to do more research on this issue, but have run into several road blocks created by DLNR , DOD (National Guard) and the Navy. DLNR's Chairman, Gilbert Agaran and his Land Division staff withheld documents that should have been produced when we requested them through the States Uniform Information Act or Sunshine Law. They have gone as far as claiming that we have taken out of context some of the language in documents they did provide. Yet, Chairman Agaran has refused to speak publicly on this matter and placed a gag order on his staff. Though the Navy was liberal and quick to produce documents showing they didn't own the property, as well as a sampling analysis of the property, to other agencies, their attorney, Ms. Rebecca Harmon, refused to provide the same documents to EnviroWatch Inc. "because, of EnviroWatch's political leanings and that EnviroWatch Inc. sues government agencies".
Even while the Honolulu Police Department reports that the arrest complaint for the little boy was initiated by the DOD(National Guard), the Department of Defense office of the Adjutant General, in a April 10, 2001, letter advised "This agency has no records relating to the filing of any complaint(s) with the Honolulu Police Department for unlawful entry into a pumphouse by local area youth.
BACK TO THE FISH
This incident may help explain why fish and other organisms in Pearl Harbor are contaminated with mercury, and why other chemicals are showing up in the tissues of fish in high concentrations. A document produced in July 27, 1998 by the Navy titled "SUMMARY OF FISH CONSUMPTION ADVISORY EVALUATION" states; "Based on the harbor wide date set, exposure to the mean concentration of the following chemicals resulted in monthly consumption limits of less than two meals per month for whole fish: arsenic, heptaclor epoxide, aldrin, dieldrin, PCB-114, PCB- 118, PCB-126, PCB128, PCB-153, PCB-170, and other chemicals. An evaluation of the tissue concentrations detected in tissue samples collected from individual lochs indicated that a monthly fish consumption limits would be less than two meals per month".
JUSTICE OR "JUST US"
If we didn't know any better we would say we are living in a communist third world country. Where else would the military have a ten year old child plucked from school and arrest him for playing with trash that the military failed to dispose of, while evacuating it's citizens and depriving them of their freedom, personal property, and due process, after exposing them to them to toxic chemicals?
The reality is, it is taking place in Hawaii, a place that prides itself in being a true and democratic society. As democrats we
are appalled that our Democratic leaders would allow such injury be inflicted on the people and their environment. Funny
how no one is willing to take the blame for having arrested the little boy nor will anyone stand up and have the case
dismissed. These are some of the same folk that told us Mr. Bush and his fellow Republicans are anti environment and anti
President Bush, please hurry to Hawaii where we will have milk and cookies waiting and, if you dare, fish and chips at one of our fund raisers. You won't have any problem finding us just look for the people with a glowing welcome of Aloha.