Hawaii County looks at
trucking garbage to Kona
when the Hilo landfill closes
HILO » Two resort and community associations are opposing a county plan to haul trash across the Big Island, from Hilo to Kona, as the County Council decides what to do when the Hilo landfill reaches capacity early next year.
Hawaii County officials are looking at the possibility of having county and private haulers run up to 80 trucks a day with some 225 tons of East Hawaii trash to the Puuanahulu landfill in West Hawaii while exploring a new, high-tech method of garbage disposal and finding up to $60 million to pay for it.
In the meantime, the county environmental managers are planning to apply to the state Health Department to extend the life of the Hilo landfill, which is due to fill up and close next spring.
The Health Department has granted the county several extensions in the past 12 years, a fact that Lawrence Lau, deputy director for environmental health, pointed out when he wrote the county in June expressing concern that officials have not implemented a solid-waste management plan.
State health officials approved the county's 2002 Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan, which also emphasized recycling and recommended a new waste reduction facility in East Hawaii.
But the county still has not decided whether to go with waste-to-energy combustion, thermal gasification or anaerobic digestion technology. Nor has it decided where a plant might be built or how to pay for it. County officials and waste management experts agree it will take years before construction can even begin.
In the meantime, the Kohala Coast Resort Association and the Mauna Kea Community Association are keeping an eye on the county's plan to truck the garbage past their communities, which include the resorts in Waikoloa.
The county is considering whether to fund a $15.5 million sort station in East Hawaii that would weed out green waste, metals and recyclables -- up to 45 percent -- before hauling the remainder to Puuanahulu.
Bruce Voss, an attorney for Kohala Coast Resort Association, told the Council in testimony that the association supports the county's efforts "to reduce the island's waste stream, including recycling and the sort station concept."
"But KCRA cannot support a massive and costly waste-trucking proposal that endangers the health, safety and well-being of all West Hawaii residents," Voss wrote in an Aug. 16 memo.
Members of the Mauna Kea Community Association are "monitoring very carefully what's being done" and are "very concerned the county won't come up with an alternative other than simply long-hauling trash to Puuanahulu landfill," said the association's attorney, Randy Vitousek.
"A lot of people who work at Mauna Kea drive a long way," he said. "It's a pretty tough lifestyle already. (Trash hauling) is really going to have a material impact on people who have to commute to work, in addition to the environmental impact of landfilling."
Meanwhile, the Hawaii Leeward Planning Commission is "not drawing a hard line in the sand" against hauling the trash, said Jacqui Hoover, the organization's president.
There are "diverging concerns and interests among its 72 members, "but the bottom line is that the HLPC supports the county's efforts to find diversion technologies and understands it's going to take some trucking in the interim," she said.