LIHU’E — Members of Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s administration have laid out plans to horizontally expand the Kekaha Landfill by 10 acres, and to concurrently thoroughly investigate alternate solid-waste technologies to dispose of island trash before the landfill reaches capacity, a top county official told Kaua’i County Council members Thursday.
But in addressing County Engineer Donald Fujimoto, Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said it would be folly for Baptiste to give preference to a waste-to-energy project before the updating of the county’s solid-waste-management plan by officials with R.W. Beck, a Honolulu-based consultant, is done.
“If you put as much energy into other diversion methods as you are putting money, time and attention to waste-to-energy, I think you might have different results,” Yukimura said.
Other technologies could be cheaper and just as efficient as a waste-to-energy project, said Yukimura, who was Kaua’i mayor when the solid-waste-management plan was done.
But Fujimoto noted the R.W. Beck study will show the waste-to-energy technology has merit, such projects are the rave among municipalities across the nation, and one could extend the life of the Kekaha landfill by 36 years, instead of just six years through a horizontal expansion.
At the same time, the consultants will look at other technologies to dispose of the island’s garbage, he added.
A waste-to-energy system is capable of burning or otherwise disposing of island garbage, and generating electricity in the process.
The exchange between Fujimoto and Yukimura took place during the meeting of members of the council’s Parks and Public Works Committee at the historic County Building.
The committee members also took up a related matter involving the floatation of a bond of $20 million for implementation of a solid-waste program.
Administration officials and council members have acknowledged the county could be overrun with garbage if no effective solid-waste-management plan is implemented before the landfill reaches capacity in about four years.
Fujimoto and Troy “Kalani” Tanigawa, the county’s solid-waste specialist, say the situation will not likely evolve if an alternative waste-disposal technology is employed along with the horizontal expansion of the landfill.
The two top county Department of Public Works officials said the expansion calls for the creation of two cells, each consisting of about five acres.
At a cost of $8 million, to be covered by proceeds from the sale of bonds in the bond float, the expansion plan would involve putting one cell on top of a leachate field, and building a new leachate field, Fujimoto said.
A leachate field is a land area where liquids from land-filled garbage are stored.
“It would take four years to do the design, and to give the permit to construct the first cell,” Fujimoto said during a break in the meeting. “The (cell could be in operation) in the first quarter of 2009 if we start today.”
Tanigawa said the other cell could be up an running in 1 1/2 years following the start date for the first cell.
“Optimistically, everything will happen before the existing landfill gets full, and we should gain about six years of life from this expansion,” Fujimoto said.
Just last year, acting on a request from county officials because the facility was nearing capacity, state Department of Health leaders approved the vertical expansion of the landfill, breathing another five years of life into it.
Councilman Jay Furfaro has said that Kekaha residents are wary of looking at the growing landfill, and that he is frustrated that the residents will have to be subjected to yet another expansion.
County officials have looked for alternative sites for a new landfill for number of years, including one on former cane lands mauka of Hanama’ulu town.
But no decision has been made because people everywhere have raised concerns about having a new landfill in their community.
It takes about five years to identify a site for a new landfill, and to build it, county officials have said.
Currently, 230 tons of garbage are generated on the island each day.
A landfill, whether big or small, is needed, even with the implementation of a solid-waste-disposal project, Council-man Mel Rapozo said.
Whether one technology is used, or a combination of technologies is used, there will always be some garbage left over from whatever process or processes are implemented, and that debris needs to be put in a landfill, Rapozo said.
Fujimoto said he would like to move as quickly as possible on the horizontal expansion plan for the landfill, and wondered when he could start on the project.
Council Vice Chairman James Tokioka said the $8 million is part of a $20-million bond to solve the solid-waste-disposal problems of the island, and that he is awaiting an answer from a bond counsel to see if that money can be broken out to begin work on the horizontal-landfill expansion.
If county officials are leaning toward using a waste-to-energy project to be used along with the expanded landfill to deal with garbage, they should take a second look, Yukimura said.
She said she wondered how administration leaders can ask the council to proceed on a waste-to-energy project “until we know that is a good technology among all the alternative technologies.”
She asked why county officials have not asked officials at R.W. Beck, who won a contract to update the 11-year-old, county solid-waste-management plan, to do an analysis of technologies and “show us first that waste-to-energy (technology) is the one.”
Fujimoto said the updated plan will “gives us that information, will give us what is the best technology.”
Leaders of the county administration are only giving preference to waste-to-energy technology at this time because that technology has worked in many municipalities across the nation, including small communities like Kaua’i, whose residents and visitors generate only a limited amount of garbage, Fujimoto said.
Big Island leaders are looking at the feasibly of establishing such a system for use in the Hilo area, Fujimoto said.
Officials in the U.S. Department of Energy, he said, have given priority to waste-to-energy technologies as a way to dispose of solid waste.
Yukimura said $600,000 has been set aside for a consultant to look at the merit of waste-to-energy projects.
But what if the consultant, who has yet to be selected, determines that type of technology won’t work for Kaua’i, Yukimura and Rapozo asked.
Rapozo asked why he should support a waste-to-energy project when an environmental study done by a consultant with Earth Tech, for the vertical expansion of the landfill earlier this year, recommended against setting up one on the island.
Under the circumstances, Rapozo said he would be hard-pressed to support the release of $600,000 for a study on the merit of setting up such a system on Kaua’i.
Fujimoto said county-administration leaders have asked consultants to “push up” the work on the updated plan, to “see if it (waste-to-energy) is feasible,” Fujimoto said.
Yukimura said the matter doesn’t come down to whether the technology is feasible, but whether which technology or a combination of technologies will help Kaua’i get a better handle on its solid-waste problem.
“How can you even assess the feasibility of waste-to-energy if you don’t know the ranges of quantity of waste you are going to be dealing with?” Yukimura asked.
“And how do you know the ranges of quantities for waste until you have looked at the feasibility of the forpay-and-throw system (where folks pay according to the amount of garbage they generate)?” she asked.
Fujimoto said the answers she seeks will come from the updated solid-waste-management plan.
R.W. Beck officials plan to hold a workshop on the update study between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. this Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the Lihu’e Civic Center.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or email@example.com