The Department of Land and Natural Resources mobilized quickly Monday to remove large amounts of Styrofoam that washed ashore on Feedlot Beach at Campbell Industrial Park about a week ago.
"I judge how government reacts to a problem, rather than always saying that they are responsible," said environmentalist Carroll Cox, who first notified the state about the Styrofoam on Friday. "The Department of Land and Natural Resources, in my opinion, responded as best they could."
Cox and members of a DLNR crew combed about a half-mile stretch of the beach Monday with three heavy-duty vacuums. The vacuums were used to gather smaller pieces of Styrofoam that could not be picked up by hand.
"Our objective is to get as much of the Styrofoam out as possible," said state Land Director William Aila. "If we don't finish today, our crews will go back and finish that tomorrow."
Through the examination of larger pieces of debris that washed up on the beach, it's clear the Styrofoam came from floating concrete docks that broke up along the rocky shoreline. Large pieces of concrete, with foam still attached, were spotted up and down the coastline.
Aila said the docks may have been dislodged by last year's powerful tsunami, but it's difficult to know for sure.
"Those types of floating dock systems have been used at Keehi Lagoon and at the two marinas in Pearl Harbor," said Aila. "So we will never be able to tell you exactly where it came from, other than one of those two locations."
The state Health Department said Monday the Styrofoam doesn't pose a risk to humans or marine life.
"According to the toxicology reports from the Department of Health, it's not toxic to human beings," said Aila. "They believe that the small pieces that we were unable to get will sink and eventually become part of the sediment."
Cox had a private laboratory test the foam for chlorofluorocarbons, a once common ingredient in refrigerants, but the results came back negative.
Of greater concern to the president and founder of EnviroWatch is what happens if actual debris from last year's Japanese tsunami begins washing up on Hawaii coastlines.
"We best be ready, and this might just be a practice run," said Cox.
The environmentalist wants the state to create a rapid response team to deal with any tsunami debris that may wash ashore.