HANAMAULU — On days the tradewinds blow toward her house, Hanamaulu resident April Nuivo finds red dirt on her kitchen floor, in her bedroom, on the furniture and carpet.
“Maybe if I wasn’t a stay-at-home person I wouldn’t notice, but I’m at home,” Nuivo said. “My daughter lives up the street. She works. She has to close all the windows tight. When she comes home, there’s still dust.”
Nuivo is among several residents who have raised concerns over infrastructure work by Earthworks Pacific Inc. at Ho‘oluana at Kohea Loa — a neighborhood project slated to offer affordable housing options and single-family homes in Hanamaulu.
Nuivo, whose house is directly behind the project, said dust has continually drifted from the construction site to her residence since March.
“They would tell me that they’re doing the best they can: ‘We got two water trucks; we got three water trucks; dusting it down.’ she said. “I told them the dust is still coming in, but the majority of the time that is what they would tell me. It’s just ridiculous. It’s still filthy.”
From June 21 to July 11, there have been five complaints filed against Earthworks Pacific Inc. that involved dust drifting outside the construction site, said Lisa Young, Department of Health Clean Air Branch environmental health specialist.
“We haven’t witnessed anything that is a violation, but we have at least contacted (Earthworks Pacific Inc) that we have been receiving complaints and asking them what they are doing to control their dust,” she said. “Dust control and big construction projects that happen for a long period of time with residents close by is a hard situation.”
For businesses or anyone who works on a project that creates dust, they need reasonable precautions to prevent the dust from drifting, Young said. The second part is to prevent that dust from leaving the property line.
Violation of these rules may result in civil and administrative fines of $25,000 per day per violation.
“We do all we can from keeping the dust out: water trucks, grassing, all the requirements we try to keep up with,” said Bill McCune, Earthworks Pacific Inc. project manager. “(Nuivo’s) called me in the past about the dust. We tried to do all we can from keeping the dust from going anywhere. It’s a good-sized project, but unfortunately she’s right behind it.”
In the next three weeks, McCune said the dust problem residents are experiencing will subside.
“The job’s shrinking down now and moving toward the highway on the bottom phase. It’s not going to affect those people anymore, I don’t think,” he said. “When you have them right behind the dust screen, right behind the job, it’s probably a little tough on them.”
Since Nuivo hangs her laundry, Earthworks Pacific Inc. loaned her a drier.
“Then she said she had to have her windows open all day long, so we bought her an air conditioner to try and help that during the day,” McCune said. “We tried to compensate her and help her out. That’s all we can do is communicate with her right now.”
Though the DOH Clean Air Branch contends that there isn’t visible dust leaving the construction site, Hanamaulu residents argue dust is, in fact, visible.
“Every time when they use the graders and they start to move dirt, that’s when all the dust comes. The whole area is like one dust cloud,” said Lynde Antonio. “There’s dust in the house, in the garage, on my cars — every place you can think of. My carpet is not gray anymore. It’s brown. My white curtains are red. This is everyday you gotta wipe. Especially when it’s windy.”
If the DOH inspectors cannot see a visible source of the dust, there is no merit to the complaints, Young said.
“We would not be looking for dust in somebody’s house,” she said.
Construction for five roadway connections to existing roads with infrastructure, water, sewer and drains at Ho‘oluana at Kohea Loa will be completed by the beginning of 2017, McCune said.
“Everyone’s educated out here on dust,” McCune said. “The way the trades blow — it’s just a difficult situation.”
The contractor and county are monitoring the work and the dust problems appear to be managed, wrote Mary Daubert, county spokeswoman.
The county has received three complaints from nearby residents or follow-up calls from the State Department of Health – Clean Air Branch regarding dust from the project.
She said there was no specific outreach activity to warn residents about dust from the construction.
“However, this project went through all of the normal reviews including some meetings that the public is able to attend,” she wrote.
Dust is “inherent with grading and any construction activity,” Daubert wrote.
“This is why the county requires best management practices during grading activities, primarily the dust fence and water trucks. In this case, the contractor has been very diligent, responsible, and responsive to all complaints.”