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Kaua‘i County identifies new potential landfill site

LIHUE — Kaua‘i County is moving to build a second landfill site in Kekaha, Department of Public Works Solid Waste Division officials said, as the division’s head suggested the island’s existing site will likely shut down years before another could open.

Solid Waste Management Coordinator Allison Fraley announced the new site on June 14 during the Kaua‘i Climate Action Forum, a virtual monthly environmental forum.

During her presentation, Fraley revealed that the county is developing plans to transform a state-owned, 175-acre former rock quarry east of the Kawai‘ele Waterbird Sanctuary into a landfill site capable of providing the island a dumping ground for 60 years.

“At this point, we have received a right of entry (permit),” Fraley said. “We’ve executed that, and we’re ready to start site evaluation. We’re negotiating with a firm to do this really critical work to see if we can get a conceptual design and all of the engineering assessments completed to be able to use the site.”

The county’s proclamation of a new proposed site comes after nearly a decade of failed efforts to install a massive landfill in Hanama‘ulu, on a 270-acre, state-owned parcel off Ma‘alo Road. In 2012, a county study recommended officials move ahead with the proposal, arguing the space could absorb over 91,000 tons of waste annually for 264 years.

However, in 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration and state Department of Transportation Airports Division came out in strong opposition of the proposed site, arguing its proximity to Lihu‘e Airport would cause too many bird strikes by aircraft. Without state and federal support, the county quickly abandoned the plan.

“We can’t use that site, which is very unfortunate,” Fraley said.

Effectively forced to scrap a decade of planning, county officials now lag even further behind in their efforts, as the existing Kekaha Landfill nears its anticipated capacity date of October 2026.

Unfortunately for Kaua‘i, landfill permitting and construction is a tedious process. Even as officials suggest the planned vertical expansion of the Kekaha Landfill could allow it to remain open until April 2030, estimates place the earliest possible opening of a new landfill to be in 2033 — meaning the island will likely have nowhere to dump its waste for at least three years.

As such, the Solid Waste Division has begun heavily focusing on waste-diversion projects as a means of slowing the landfill’s growth.

“We have these critical years coming up where we are going to have to limit what goes into the landfill and find other alternative ways to manage our waste,” Fraley said.

County Recycling Program Coordinator Andrew Boyd told forum members he’s developing several partnerships between himself, county council, businesses and environmental organizations to strengthen the county’s efforts.

“With all these folks working together to understand what our issues are with the landfill, we can get moving in a direction that’ll get more materials taken away from our landfill,” he said.

According to county estimates, approximately 20 percent of landfill material are construction and demolition resources — much of which can be repurposed. Concrete can be crushed into construction aggregate, clean wood waste can be composted and potentially burned as biomass fuel, and asphalt can often be ground up and reused in paving projects. The county also estimates an additional one-fourth of landfill material is compostable, comprising food waste, paper, biosolids and plant matter.

“If we can get half of that, that’s 12 percent plus 10 percent,” Boyd said. “So we’d be up about 22 percent right there.”

Additionally, Boyd told forum members he hopes to increase visitor participation in the county’s recycling program by requiring rental unit owners to supply recycling bins and recycling education materials, noting that the county has already drafted visitor recycling pamphlets.

A perennial waste discussion, Boyd also noted county officials are currently studying the feasibility of implementing a curbside recycling program and materials recovery facility, although he acknowledged such a program couldn’t be quickly carried out.

“This is still something that’s a little ways down the road, but we certainly want to keep looking at it,” he said.

Finally, the presenters issued a call to action for the island, recommending residents assist their neighbors in reducing waste, reusing materials and recycling and composting when possible.

“We’re all in this together,” Fraley said. “This is a huge challenge to be able to reduce our waste, and everybody needs to take action.”

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Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or jhealy@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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