Judge orders removal of 500 tons of debris from Kapaia

A Hawaiian land-rights activist has hauled away at least one tractor-trailer load of roofing tile following a fire in Kapaia Wednesday night behind Immaculate Conception Church.

The Kaua‘i Fire Department was called to extinguish the fire at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night. Firefighters left the scene by 2 a.m., KFD Battalion Chief Greg Morishige said. Firefighters used a flotation pump to get water from a nearby stream to extinguish the rubbish fire that got out of control, Morishige said. Burned materials found at the scene included wooden pallets and a pile of concrete roofing tile.

In a civil case filed in late March, Visionary LLC dba Lihue Land Company, a company managed by Grove Farm Co., Judge George Masuoka ordered two Kapaia Valley residents, Eric Taniguchi and Butch Durant, to cease grading and to remove all heavy equipment and roofing material from the land by yesterday. Durant and Taniguchi claimed they could use the land to rebuild a taro lo‘i and banana patch, based on Hawaiian cultural rights.

The roofing tile was brought there by Taniguchi, of Eric Taniguchi Trucking & Equipment. He was hired by Hyatt Regency Kauai roofing contractor Beachside Roofing to haul the tiles from a baseyard near the Hyatt, take them to a secondary site and then dispose of them at the Kekaha Landfill.

Andrew Finn, Beachside Roofing project manager, estimated that as much as 500 tons of tile will be removed when the project is complete. The job started about three months ago.

“I asked him why that happened, he said it was logistics, he just couldn’t get it to the landfill in time,” Finn said about Taniguchi storing the tile in Kapaia. “He stopped doing that about a week ago. I told him to haul it out of there and take it to the landfill,” he said.

“We work very late and the Kekaha Landfill closes before we get done. We have to store it somewhere while the landfill is closed,” Finn said. Empty “cans,” or tractor-trailer rigs, must be at the site at 8 a.m. to haul tiles, Finn said. He said that he did not visit the Kapaia site.

Now that the project is nearing completion, Finn said, tiles can be hauled during the landfill’s operating hours. Taniguchi on Thursday was hauling tile away from the Kapaia site.

Sanifill of Hawaii, Inc., contracted by the County of Kaua‘i to manage the landfill, could not make a comment regarding the tile, and county officials were not available by press time. Taniguchi was not immediately available for comment.

Mark Hubbard, of Grove Farm, said that individuals from that company and other people asked the state Department of Health Solid Waste Branch whether they could crush the tiles and use the material either as a topper on dirt roads or possibly as a base for other roads.

Finn said the tile was made up of at least 50 percent silica, or sand. According to a spokesperson for the DOH Clean Air Branch, exposing people to its dust for long periods of time can cause silicosis, a lung disease. The tile will not be used for road material, Finn and Hubbard both said. Instead, all 500 tons or so will be disposed of in the landfill.

Durant’s son Roland said that they believed the fire department was called to extinguish the fire by a neighbor. Clay tile such as was hauled by Taniguchi cannot be burned, as the items were originally purposely heated to a high temperature to create their hard texture.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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