Housing project stalled after lead, arsenic found

HONOLULU (AP) — Contaminated soil has halted redevelopment of a Hilo public housing complex.

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HONOLULU (AP) — Contaminated soil has halted redevelopment of a Hilo public housing complex.

The housing site has been empty for over 10 years, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/1X5P6Zl).

Health officials say high levels of arsenic, lead and chlordane are probably tied to lead paint and pesticides that stayed in the soil decades after their use was banned.

All samples tested higher than the health department’s safe level for arsenic, with some as high as 45 times the limit.

The levels make the complex unsafe for people to live there, said John Peard, a health department official. The contaminated soil and dust is dangerous to ingest.

“The concern is the long-term cancer hazard,” Peard said.

Hawaii soil does contain high levels of iron, which bonds with arsenic and reduces the risk to humans.

Officials installed fences and dust matting at the site to deter people from entering.

“We wouldn’t want kids getting in there, sitting on the foundations, digging around the edges or playing with their toys,” Peard said.

The public can comment through June 16 on a remediation plan estimated to cost between $45,950 and $124,920.

The late Sen. Gil Kahele lived at the housing site growing up. He secured $7.5 million to fund the redevelopment.

Workers were removing falling-down homes to build structures with multiple units, with plans to add public housing later.

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Kahele’s son Kai Kahele was appointed to fill his seat.

“The housing project is something that is really, really needed in Hilo, which is dealing with growing homelessness,” said the new senator, noting that he hopes remediation will be done before 2017.

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