Salt Pond fills my spirit

I am against the building of a drug rehabilitation facility in Hanapepe because of the environmental impact it will have on Salt Pond.

The one thing that fills my spirit, which makes me love every moment of being at Salt Pond for as long as I can remember, is the saltbeds and the process of making Hawaiian Salt (pakai). This is a family tradition that has come from before my father and that is being taught to my children, my friends, and my loved ones. It is a process that will continue to thrive if we can protect the area.

Hawaiian Salt, or pakai, is made from all of Salt Pond’s natural surroundings. The methods that are used at the Salt Pond are not used anywhere else in the state, or even the world. Wells nearly 7 feet deep and 4 feet wide are built about 100-150 feet away from the beach. Water from the ocean travels underground to fill these wells. The waiku (well) and the punees (saltbed) are made from the clay that we find in the area that surround Salt Pond. The clay is molded into beds and baked in the sun, similar to the process of making a clay pot. If the clay has any particles of dirt, the beds will fall apart when the sun bakes it. That is why the black mud is so very important to the traditional salt-making method. Most of the black clay we use comes from across the street, close to where the proposed drug treatment facility will be located. With the water distributed from these wells into the beds, the water crystallizes and forms what we all know and love — Hawaiian Salt (pakai).

In Hanapepe, when it rains, the saltbed area and the area between Salt Pond and the beach fills up with water. About two years ago, the county decided to backfill the area between the saltbeds and the beach access with old asphalt and debris to prevent people from driving through and getting their vehicles stuck. When this was done, no one could make salt, the underground flow was blocked and water could not flow in and out — oil from the asphalt filled our wells. Not all of this rubbish has been removed. Recently the county pushed the vegetation along the salt patch right into the salt patch, instead of pushing it out and removing the rubbish.

I have worked in the construction business for 15 years; I am not an engineer but I do know about drainage and I know that the salt patch lies in the lowest point at Salt Pond. I know water flows to the wells underground from the beach. Backfill those tunnels, add in more water, more debris — what do you get?

No Hawaiian Salt.

How can adding any more fresh water, adding another septic system that will overflow like the one at the park, and stopping the natural drainage through more construction help this process?

Compacting and hardening of the earth around the pans, adding new, high-flow water pipes to the older smaller water pipes that feed into the county park, grading the easements and leaving the rubbish lining our salt patch will permanently damage this natural treasure.

When do we stop and slow down and use the power that we have to save a part of Hawaiian culture, to protect an area that can’t survive if this continues.


• Ku‘ulei Santos is a Hanapepe resident and fourth-generation salt gatherer at Salt Pond.


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