Sun Village man wants end to Kapaia Valley burning

Ned Sparks moved into his Sun Village Kauai condominium project by Wilcox Memorial Hospital nearly four years ago because he wanted peace and quiet, and because he wanted to be able to breathe clean air.

Instead, Sparks, a retired University of Alaska professor specializing in vocational education who has respiratory problems, said he has seen his condition threatened further.

He said a man living in Kapaia Valley near Sun Village Kauai periodically burns garbage, including roofing material, and the billowing smoke poses a health hazard to residents at the condominium project, reserved for residents who are 55 years and older and including others like Sparks with respiratory problems.

Sparks, 58, said he is fighting back, and he wants government leaders to step in to help resolve the problem.

He said he and other residents at Sun Village have signed a petition asking government leaders to halt burning activities unless a person has a permit.

The petition has reportedly been sent to members of the Kaua’i County Council for action.

But the effort may have been for naught, because an existing state law requires folks to obtain a permit from those at the state Department of Health’s Environmental Health Services Clean Air Division before they can burn green waste, and only that material, and only on income-producing farms.

Those who burn items in the backyards of their homes don’t need government permits to do so.

But, in either case, authorities can halt the burning of debris if the activity becomes offensive to neighbors.

Sparks said the smoke from periodic burning in Kapaia Valley poses a concrete health hazard because the multi-storied, 147-unit condominium project is located downwind from the burn site, Sparks told The Garden Island.

Sparks claimed government leaders have not acted responsibly enough to protect the health of Sun Village tenants.

“I have been here for about four years, and he does it on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and on long weekends when the chances of getting caught are less,” Sparks said of the unidentified man apparently living in Kapaia Valley.

It is not known whether or not the man Sparks is referring to is responsible for the Christmas Day fire in the valley that Kaua’i Fire Department firefighters responded to, and that Jonathon D’Attilio aboard an InterIsland Helicopters craft also responded to.

D’Attilio, 21, crashed his helicopter into De Mello Reservoir near Lihu’e while trying to collect water to battle the fire, and died two days later at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

The cause of the Kapaia Valley fire is still under investigation, and no arrests have been made, county officials said.

Sparks said Kaua’i Police Department officers were successful in getting the man to halt the burning on one occasion, but only after he and other Sun Village residents pursued the matter.

The halting of the burning was only temporary, and subsequent fires have sent potentially health-harming smoke towards residents at Sun Village, Sparks contends.

“I haven’t contacted the man. That is somebody else’s job,” Sparks said. “That is why I pay the taxes to the police (actually to county Department of Finance officials through property taxes).”

Sparks said he thought the man had burned roofing material one day. “It was really black smoke,” he said. “It smelled like tar.”

Jean Alexander, a board member of the Sun Village Association, said she believes the man who is the target of criticism by Sparks and some other Sun Village residents hasn’t broken any laws, and is being unfairly targeted.

She stressed she has not joined other Sun Village residents who want to prevent the man in Kapaia Valley from burning debris.

Sparks said he just wants to stop non-permitted or illegal burning in the valley.

For folks who want to burn debris on agricultural lands, they must first obtain an agricultural-burn permit from DOH officials, a department spokesperson in Honolulu said.

The permit is not intended for the clearing of land, and is for “legitimate farmers” who burn only green waste, the official said.

The agricultural-burn permit is issued only to folks who operate income-producing farms, pay excise taxes for their business operations, and have water sources, the DOH spokesperson said.

The permit costs $50, covers burning on a land area of less than 10 acres, and is good for a year from the day it is issued, the DOH spokesperson said.

The permit-holder, however, must halt appellations if DOH investigators, following up on public complaints, determine the conditions for agricultural burning have not been met, the spokes-person said.

DOH leaders also can declare “no-burn” days when conditions are ripe for fires to spread, or when burning might aggravate conditions of those like Sparks with respiratory problems.

Folks who fail to comply with the terms of the agricultural-burn permit can be subjected to penalties and court actions.

Residential property owners, mean-while, can conduct “backyard burning” on their properties without having to get a permit, on the premise they live too far away from streets where residential garbage pickup takes place.

These folks can burn up to 25 pounds each day, but only between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week.

Again, if the burning of materials, including garbage or green waste, becomes a nuisance or a hazard, KPD officers, acting on public complaints, can require fires to be put out, the DOH spokesperson said.

A KFD spokesman said those who want to conduct backyard burning must meet certain requirements, including ensuring the fire site is a safe distance from neighboring homes, and ascertaining how many pounds are to be burned.

It is also a good idea to let KPD dispatch operators know of the planned backyard burning, so that neighbors don’t call in reporting a fire in the neighborhood.

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