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Cleanup on Amala Place to begin this month

The Maui News

State and county officials are launching cleanup efforts this month along Amala Place, an area that’s sparked concerns over extensive homeless encampments and growing rubbish.

Maui County and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced plans on Wednesday for a comprehensive cleanup of public lands surrounding the Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary and Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“No trespassing” signs are being installed mauka and makai of Amala Place, and officials have been partnering with social workers and service providers to assist 53 individuals living in the homeless encampment in the area.

The county is in the process of making emergency shelter resources and services available for each individual or household.

“Caring for people comes first,” said Mayor Michael Victorino in a news release. “It’s not compassionate to enable people to continue living without basic sanitation. Mounds of rubbish, human waste and used syringes surround many of the tents and temporary structures in the area.

“With the risk of flooding during the upcoming rainy season, now is the time for these folks to move into emergency shelters. Once the unsheltered residents have settled into new accommodations, we will start the cleanup and DLNR will begin the needed sanctuary improvements.”

Additional “no trespassing” signage will be installed throughout early September to prepare for the cleanup. Work on the Kahana Pond Wildlife Sanctuary is scheduled to commence in late September, according to the county.

Kanaha Pond, adjacent to Amala Place, is an invaluable resource for the people of Maui and is “one of the most important breeding sites” for numerous species of endangered waterbirds.

“It is not only a State Wildlife Sanctuary but was designated 70 years ago as a National Natural Landmark,” said Scott Fretz, Maui branch manager for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “It is totally inappropriate for this special place to be impacted by the dumping of rubbish and human waste. Protective fencing that protects the endangered wildlife has repeatedly been damaged. Our staff has been harassed and threatened in the course of doing their jobs and have had to clean up syringes and other hazardous waste in the sanctuary.”

Eric Nakagawa, director of the county Department of Environmental Management, has encountered similar problems.

“Our employees need to get safely in and out of the Kahului wastewater treatment plant on Amala Place to do their jobs and possibly prevent a sewage spill into the ocean in an emergency that can happen any time, day or night,” Nakagawa said. “In recent weeks, our staff has reported individuals blocking the roadway entrance to the plant, starting verbal arguments and jumping on a truck in at least one instance in which police were called.”

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