Toxic and potentially carcinogenic chemicals found in a military landfill at the old Puunene airport site that is now used as a drag strip will be removed under a proposal by the Army Corps of Engineers.
A public meeting on the cleanup proposal for the Maui Airport Landfill, which was used by the Navy and the Army from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, will be held Wednesday, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Pomaikai Elementary School cafeteria in Kahului.
Investigations of the 6.5-acre dumpsite in 2008 and 2010 found polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) Aroclor 1254 and heavy metals cadmium and lead, said Joseph Bonfiglio, chief of public affairs for the Corps of Engineers Honolulu District, in answer to emailed questions.
Under parts of this lot at Puunene, once a military airport, probes detected toxic chemicals from its days as an active base. The Army Corps of Engineers will hold a meeting Wednesday in the Pomaikai Elementary School cafeteria to discuss ways of mitigating the problem.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Corps studies have shown that these toxic and potentially carcinogenic chemicals are not a threat to the underlying groundwater table, he said.
The health risk of those chemicals would be through direct contact with the contaminated soil, which is below ground. The contaminated soil that exceeds health-risk levels is between 3 and 20 feet below the surface and limited to two trench and boring test sites, the Corps' draft proposed plan for the site said.
The favored cleanup plan is to dig out the contaminated soil and to dispose of it in an Environmental Protection Agency-approved landfill, Bonfiglio said. The site would be backfilled with uncontaminated soil.
The Corps could decide on a final cleanup plan as early as January, a draft report said. Based on comments received, the Corps could modify its current favored proposal or opt for another of the five options identified, which include no action, surface capping and several methods of soil cleaning.
The estimated cost of the excavation and off-site disposal proposal is between $3 million and $4.4 million. The cleanup is being funded by the federal Defense Environmental Rest-oration Program for Formerly Used Defense Sites, a program initiated in 1983 by Congress in response to concerns about abandoned military structures and releases of hazardous substances. The program cleans up contaminants, disposes of military munitions and removes buildings and debris that are a safety hazard caused by Department of Defense operations.
The schedule for the Maui Airport cleanup is dependent on available funding, but the plan is to begin in fiscal year 2013. The job is expected to take a year, Bonfiglio said.
The Maui Airport was built in 1938-39, according to the draft report. The Navy used the airfield from 1940 to 1946 for aircraft fighter training. Between 1941 and 1945 during World War II, about 110 Navy squadrons rotated through Naval Air Station Puunene.
The adjacent 14.8-acre Maui Airport Military Reservation was established in November 1941 to provide for Army operations at NAS Puunene. The reservation had as many as 200 enlisted personnel and officers during the early to mid-1940s.
The Territory of Hawaii regained control of the site in April 1949. It became the island's main public airport from then until 1952, when operations were moved to the larger Naval Air Station Kahului, the site that became Kahului Airport.
Since then, the abandoned runway has been used for drag racing and eventually became the Maui Raceway Park. The site also is used for police and fire training as well as model aircraft exhibitions.
Public comments will be accepted in writing by the Army Corps until Dec. 9.
The period may be extended up to 30 days if a written request is received before the deadline.
Comments may be emailed to FUDS-POH@usace.army.
mil; faxed to (808) 438-6930; or mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District, Programs and Project Management Division, Environmental Programs Branch, Attn: CEPOH-PP-E (Helene Takemoto), Bldg. 252, Fort Shafter 96858-5440.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Maui Airport Landfill. The site of a World War II-era landfill at an old airport in Puunene is a half mile to a mile to the Kihei side of Maui Raceway Park, according to Kenneth Sylva, president of the Valley Isle Timing Association. A story on Page A1 on Monday about a planned cleanup of toxic chemicals at the site incorrectly stated that the site was near the park's drag strip. The landfill is "not even close to the racetrack," said Sylva, who said he wanted to allay fears of a potential hazard at the drag strip, which uses an old runway from the airport.
The Maui News apologizes for the errors.