Coast Guard wraps clean-up on Ni‘ihau

The Coast Guard and Pacific Environmental Corporation on Wednesday completed the cleanup of oil and hazardous materials from a fishing vessel that ran aground on Ni‘ihau on Dec. 29.

Two men who were aboard the 44-foot fishing vessel “Wahine Kapaloa” were airlifted off Ni‘ihau with no injuries by a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter, according to a news release.

Paul Loftus and John Bigalow, both of O‘ahu, were flown to Barbers Point Air Station on O‘ahu after the mishap, Coast Guard officials said.

The identity of the owner was not immediately known.

A Coast Guard “Pacific Strike Team” supervised the cleanup of diesel fuel, propane, batteries, refrigerant and other hazardous materials from the craft, which ran aground near the southeast point of the island.

Pacific used a helicopter with a sling to move the materials and nearly 1,000 gallons of watery fuel to an offshore barge.

As part of the orderly storage of the materials supervised by a Coast Guard site safety supervisor, barrels of waste were labeled and placed in the barge’s holding tanks, the Coast Guard said.

Following a damage assessment, a Coast Guard pollution investigator found no signs of pollution nor visible impact to marine life or birds.

At one point, the Coast Guard reported the removal of pollutants that included 400 gallons of diesel fuel.

Coast Guard Capt. Vince Atkins in Honolulu federalized the pollution recovery effort, tapping up to $125,000 in total funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and the CERCLA fund for the removal of hazardous materials, according to Coast Guard chief petty officer Marshalena Delaney.

Coast officials said the agency has worked closely with the state Department of Health and the Robinson family, which owns Ni‘ihau, on the recovery operation.

Delaney said the cause of the boat grounding is under investigation.

She said the vessel seemed to be “in semi-intact” condition after the Coast Guard cleanup on Wednesday.

Delaney said the DOH and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources are responsible for removing the wreck.

Before the vessel ran aground around 7:15 p.m., the sailors issued a call for help and began using an emergency beacon.

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