Cleaning Up Moloka‘i’s Hidden Pollution

Nov 16, 2016

Concerns about pollution often center on the kind you can see—from garbage dumps to litter on beaches. But on Moloka‘i, a different kind of pollution is leading to testing and eventually cleanup. It’s a property once used by the local electric company—and we get more on the story from Catherine Cluett Pactol of the Moloka‘i Dispatch. 

Molokai Electric began operations in 1932 in central Kaunakakai and in 1985, moved its generating station just west of town.  Maui Electric took over the company four years later. Today, Maui Electric officials say even though the company didn’t inherit the Kaunakakai property, they are taking responsibility for its cleanup.

Initial tests conducted over the last two decades by the Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health show several toxic contaminants are present at the site. Those include petroleum, and PCBs that used to be used to insulate electrical components. Officials say there’s currently no risk for exposure to the underground contaminants. But residents have expressed interest in community uses for the industrial zoned land, which spurred cleanup efforts. Now, Maui Electric is working with the EPA and DOH to launch the testing and cleanup process.

Site sampling will involve extensive soil and groundwater testing. That process is anticipated to begin this summer and take two to three months. Project leads say the test results will guide the type of cleanup that’s required. Project completion is slated for 2020.