The long way back to square one
In Kauai, landfills cannot be built in high rainfall areas because water and garbage do not mix. The water could potentially be contaminated with leachate, produced by contaminated fluid landfills, and could potentially leak if the leachate collection system fails.
For this reason, landfills are prohibited in tsunami flood zones, 100-year flood zones and wetlands. They are prohibited within 300 feet of perennial waterways and within 1,000 feet of shore or a water well.
A viable site should be at least 60 acres. It also needs community buy-in. And it can’t be built on federal land, state conservation land, or land with steep slopes.
This long list of landfill exclusion criteria leaves few options on the island.
A pair of county studies in 2001 and 2002 identified eight potential new landfills. In 2007, Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste convened an advisory committee to rank them.
Another county study in 2012 reassessed the eight potential locations. Finding them all technically and legally feasible, the study recommended county officials move forward with the permitting process for a new landfill on a 270-acre state-owned parcel north of Lihue.
With enough space to absorb Kauai’s 91,066 tons of annual waste for 264 years, the Maalo Road site offered more than double the capacity of any other competitor.
In 2018, the county held a series of public meetings to gather community feedback on a draft environmental impact statement for the Maalo site. Public approval of the document is a crucial step before the clearance process can move forward.
But last year, the county scrapped its plans at Maalo after the Federal Aviation Administration and the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Airports Division objected to the project due to the landfill’s potential to increase air impacts. birds at Lihue airport, county officials say.
Landfills attract birds, which can damage aircraft and even injure, sometimes fatally, pilots and passengers.
Although the Maalo site is just outside a federally designated airport buffer zone that takes the form of a six-mile radius around the airport, it is close enough that Federal and state regulators have flagged the plan as problematic, according to county officials.
Without FAA and HDOT support, county officials felt their chance to get state health regulators to allow the Maalo Road landfill would be in jeopardy, and continuing to pursue it could ultimately lose the chance. little time left for the county to find a solution.
As a result, the county is no longer considering building a landfill at the Maalo site, a difficult decision that made years of work by Kauai’s solid waste division unnecessary.
On the county’s list of potential landfills, two other sites — Kalepa and Kipu in Lihue — were also eliminated from the race due to potential airport proximity issues.
In September 2020, the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill that became Law 73, a new law that prohibits landfills within half a mile of a residence, school, or hospital. The rule rules out two other options on Kauai’s list of potential landfills — Kumukumu in Anahola and Koloa on the island’s south shore.
State lawmakers were considering House Bill 1712 — it died in conference committee last month — that would ban waste disposal facilities on important farmland. If such legislation becomes law in the future, it would disqualify another pair of potential Kauai landfills – Puu O Papai in Hanapepe and Umi in Kalaheo.
The county decided to preemptively eliminate these sites from its declining list of possibilities to avoid another false start.
What’s left? One potential option: Kekaha Mauka, a 176-acre state-owned parcel with less than a quarter of the capacity of the Maalo site.
Located across from the existing Kekaha Landfill, Kekaha Mauka offers potential savings through the ability to reuse infrastructure. This would be the easiest and quickest site to go live and start operations. And that’s basically the county’s last shot.
“Look at the last administration,” Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said, referring to former mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. “They’ve had 10 years (to figure that out) and we’ve seen how c ‘is difficult. They threw away everything they had and they still haven’t succeeded. The big difference is that I don’t have that option. We have absolutely no choice but to succeed. It is up to us to solve this problem. »
During this time, the amount of solid waste produced on the island increases.
“We’re at a point where we have five years left at Kekaha and it takes 10 years to really start a new site,” said Allison Fraley, Kauai County Solid Waste Management Coordinator.
It’s an enigma that could quickly become a public health hazard, Fraley said.
“If you could imagine if your trash wasn’t even picked up for a week, what would it be like if there was nowhere to take people’s trash,” she said. “I mean, we should ship it to the mainland. We should ship it to Oahu. And we’re looking at this because, what if? What if we don’t find a dump? »