EPA finds plastic trash contaminates 2 remote beaches

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated the waters of two remote beaches in Hawaii as contaminated by trash, forcing the state to address the persistent problem of plastic deposited on its coastlines by swirling Pacific Ocean currents.

The decision will require authorities to establish a daily limit for the trash at the two locations, one of which is so notorious for collecting debris that some call it “Plastic Beach” or “Junk Beach.”

The state had opposed the step, which finds the waterways “impaired” under the Clean Water Act, on the grounds there were insufficient criteria or guidelines for determining what amounts to plastic pollution in waterways. But the EPA overruled the state, saying a lack of formalized methodology was not an excuse.

The agency published a notice about the decision last week. It’s seeking public comment through Aug. 19. The state Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment.

David Forman, director of the environmental law program at the University of Hawaii’s law school, said the state of Hawaii initially didn’t want to list any of the 19 water bodies environmentalists had sued to have designated impaired.

“So now, hopefully this will force Hawaii to to change that tune and start seriously addressing the problem of plastics in Hawaii,” he said.

Both sites are far from population centers. The first, Kamilo Beach, is on the southern point of the Big Island. The second, Tern Island, is an atoll 560 miles northwest of Honolulu that is within a wildlife refuge and marine national monument.