HILO — Fifty-three years after its inception, the dust has yet to settle over the issue of unpaved roads in Hawaiian Paradise Park.
If anything, it might just be about to get kicked up again.
The state Department of Health on June 14 issued an informal notice of violation to the Hawaiian Paradise Park Owners Association over its dirt roads, saying that the dust produced by passing vehicles on dry days violates air quality regulations.
While it may not sound menacing, association President June Conant worries that the warning could have huge implications for the neighborhood that has long struggled to pave its 137-mile road network, especially if it leads to fines.
“If we get fined, we’re gone,” she said.
The Health Department says it is responding to complaints from HPP residents over dust drifting onto their property.
One violation was confirmed in May, which brought on the warning.
Health also notified the association over other confirmed violations in July and September 2010.
What’s different now is that the agency has requested the association provide a list of ways it intends to control the dust, making the association concerned about the possibility of fines if it can’t satisfy the state.
Health can issue field citations of $300 to $500 for the first violation, depending on whether “reasonable precautions” were taken or if dust crossed onto someone’s property, or a formal notice of violation of up to $25,000, said David Wong, an environmental health specialist with the agency.
But will it go to such lengths to control those pesky dirt particles?
Jill Stensrud, an enforcement supervisor with the Health Department, said it’s too early to say.
The agency right now, she said, is just asking for the association to provide a list of “reasonable precautions” for ways it will control the dust.
It’s giving the association 20 days to comply; Conant said the association will respond with what it’s been doing to date.
“Our inspector has gone out before … Now we are asking for it in writing,” Stensrud said.
“My question is: What are you doing now?”
Conant said the association has already tried to spray water on problem areas before the warning was given.
She said the neighborhood doesn’t have the resources to do much more, which is why she is worried about fines.
“There’s not enough water trucks on the island to take of the roads every day,” Conant said.
Paving is also not seen as an option, at least not anymore.
In 2007, the association received a $12 million bond that was supposed to pave the entire neighborhood. At the time, about 25 miles were paved.
But prices went up and only 60 miles of roads are now paved. Conant said she hopes to get another six more miles done with the funds, but it would cost $20 million to cover the rest at current prices.
“It’s not getting any cheaper,” she said.
The bond won’t be paid off until 2027.
Since the roads are private, Conant said the association is stuck with the cost.
Warren Lee, county Public Works director, agreed, saying in a voicemail that county funds cannot be used for “private purposes.”
“There’s no place for us to turn,” Conant said.