HILO, Hawaii – Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim is aware of the environmental concerns being raised in Keuakaha and Pana’ewa, and shared a sympathetic view of the situation in a recent interview.
When asked by broadcaster Sherry Bracken if his administration plans to move forward with an East Hawaii Organics Facility in Panaewa – opposed by some nearby residents – Kim began talking about the greater issue affecting the community in that area.
Kim says he is trying to get people to understand what the people of Keaukaha mean when they say “enough already”.
“We in government placed a sewage plant in Keaukaha,” Kim said as an example. “Right next to the ocean on one side, right next to people who live there on the other side of the street.”
“What kind of sensitivity did we have that we put a sewage plant there?” Kim said.
A resurgent push for environmental justice, led by Terri Napeahi, is demanding government undertake a comprehensive study of the cumulative impacts from the industry, waste management and mass transit that surrounds Keaukaha & Pana’ewa. The community is beset on all sides: an airport, a commercial harbor, energy and fuel industry, a landfill, and a waste water treatment plant.
PBR Hawaii consultant Roy Takemoto provided some preliminary information on the “Toxic Release Inventory” surrounding Keaukaha during a recent community meeting on the subject. Takemoto now works as Kim’s executive assistant.
“What will happen there, I don’t know,” Kim said of the organics facility, which is in the decision making stage. “We need to involve the community in what we are doing. This is their community.”