Lead cleanup planned for beach parks on Big Island

HILO — Two beach parks on the Big Island could reopen this summer after being closed in 2017 because of contamination, officials said.

Lead was found at Hakalau and Kolekole beach parks, which are located in gulches under state Highway 19 north of Hilo, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Saturday.

Lead paint flaked off spans of highway bridges, leading to the contamination at the Hawaii County parks. The state Department of Transportation is responsible for the cleanup.

Cleanup could be completed in May or June for Kolekole and July or August for Hakalau, said Don Smith, district engineer for the department.

Cleanup should begin at Kolekole after additional boring is conducted to determine the contamination depth, Smith said. At Hakalau, additional assessments are needed to find the exact extent of the contaminated area. The cleanup process could be as simple as removing the top soil, he said.

Recent natural disasters, such as the Kilauea volcano eruption, took up resources, delaying park cleanup, Smith said.

The park closures have frustrated nearby residents, who have limited access points along the coast. Resident Thomas Gehweiler said he and his wife previously drove to Hakalau park each morning.

“We miss it and a lot of other people miss it,” Gehweiler said.

Following cleanup, Hawaii County Parks and Recreation will need to assess both parks before they can reopen, said Maurice Messina, deputy parks director. The department also will need to address federal access guidelines before reopening Kolekole, he said.

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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