Special Training Needed for Cave Cleanups?
by Bill Halliday

The Hawaii Chapter of the NSS has encountered what may be a serious obstacle to the dump cleanups planned in follow-up of its highly successful August 2000 conference. As described in the November 2000 NSS News, the grotto organized the first-known conference on lava tubes and groundwater pollution. It was well attended and well received, with the appropriate Health Department and other governmental agencies initiating follow-ups on the alarming data presented at the conference.

The grotto planned to begin actual cleanups in January 2001. However, Dr. John Bowen, retired University of Hawaii-Hilo professor, has told us that OSHA regulations require persons involved in such cleanups to have had training in handling of hazardous and toxic substances.

John is the person who trains the Hilo Fire Department in handling such wastes, so we cannot ignore his instructions. We are attempting to arrange such training-at least for some people, but it certainly will impact the availability and the enthusiasm of many volunteers and the momentum generated among the government agencies.

It may be that cave dumps in Hawaii contain a much larger percentage of hazardous and toxic substances than elsewhere in the USA. Automotive wastes are very prominent-everything from rotted motor blocks, auto bodies and transmissions, to disintegrated batteries, rusted oil cans, and drums that long ago lost their residue to the groundwater. Nearly empty herbicide and pesticide drums and other agricultural wastes are common. Household medical wastes are obvious, and so are discarded druggie syringes and needles. All these and many more components of Hawaii cave dumps qualify as hazardous or toxic substances and we know that special care is needed in removing them. But special training to comply with OSHA regulations?

If you have successfully dealt with this kind of situation or have useful information, feedback is urgently needed. Please contact Ric Elhard caver@hialoha.net

Reprinted from March 2001 NSS News