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Landfill route mapped, hurdles remain

KAPA‘A — As long as there are no significant delays, the county is on track to site a new landfill before the existing Westside facility and its planned expansion cells reach capacity, officials said this week.

County Engineer Donald Fujimoto, Solid Waste Program Coordinator Allison Fraley and Division Chief Troy Tanigawa delivered a presentation to community members, Tuesday evening, at Kapa‘a Middle School.

They provided an update on the lateral expansion projects at Kekaha Landfill, the ongoing process and potential snags in finding a home for a new landfill and details on a recently created host community benefit fund.

The county had projected Kaua‘i’s sole landfill to reach capacity by January, but a recent aerial survey confirmed it will not be full until May 2010, Fujimoto said.

In the meantime, three lateral expansion cells are planned to extend its life and buy more time to site another landfill.

A new landfill, from siting to construction, requires at least five to seven years, Tanigawa said, “which is just about the time we have.”

The first cell, which is about to enter the construction phase, is expected to reach capacity in October 2013. Its cost recently came in at $12.9 million, triple the consultant’s estimate, Fujimoto said.

The Kaua‘i County Council last week approved nearly $5 million in additional funding to cover the unanticipated added cost, which the engineer said was primarily due to the state Department of Health requiring new conditions.

A second cell, now in the permitting stage, would give the landfill life through January 2017 and is estimated to cost another $12.9 million.

Between these two cells, Fujimoto said there would be enough time to site a new landfill.

But as added “insurance,” he said, a third cell in the conceptual phase is being planned to add another 5.4 years of life to the landfill at a cost of up to $30 million.

The county is learning from its past mistakes, officials said, and has a new site selection process and host community benefit fund to boot.

The fund, which Fujimoto said is a tool used throughout the country for “socially unacceptable projects,” could amount to compensation and mitigative measures such as traffic control, landscaping, litter pickup or free services.

As the title suggests, the recipients are the community members who host the “socially unacceptable project,” in this case a landfill.

The council unanimously approved in its last budget cycle $650,000 for a Kekaha host community benefit fund, which officials said was “long overdue.”

The county is in the process of asking residents how that money should be spent. The first of six meetings will be at 7 p.m., Oct. 6, at the Kekaha Neighborhood Center.

“The host community should have a say,” Fujimoto said.

The objective is to balance the need for safe disposal of solid waste with the sacrifices borne by a solid waste disposal facility’s host community, officials said.

More than half the country fails to provide such benefits, county documents show.

Fraley said Kekaha residents at a meeting last month voiced their issues with the landfill that echo “universal concerns” about such facilities, including groundwater contamination, public health, visual impacts and hazardous waste.

“I think we got some respect from the community just by identifying their concerns,” Fujimoto said.

The landfill’s design, mitigative measures and the host community benefit fund will address their concerns, Fraley said.

Landfills are now strictly regulated, requiring thick baseliners, multi-layered covers and close monitoring, Tanigawa said.

The Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Landfill Site Selection is expected to have a recommended site by the end of the year, Fujimoto said.

The 15-member appointed group, under the guidance of two consultants, recently determined two dozen conditions ranging from population density near the site to the cost of acquisition.

The committee is looking at seven potential sites: Kekaha Mauka, Pu‘u o Papai, Umi, Koloa, Kipu, Ma‘alo and Kalepa, according to county documents. For a map of the sites and more information, visit www.kauai.gov and search for the downloadable presentation on landfill issues.

“The next challenge is going to be land acquisition,” Fujimoto said, noting that preliminary contacts with landowners have been unfavorable. “None of the landowners are agreeable.”

He said the county could go through the imminent domain process, but then the question would be what is “just compensation” and the matter could be tangled up in legal battles for years.

Fujimoto said Grove Farm, which owns the Kalepa site, seems open to having a landfill sited there but the community is not.

He recalled the controversy several years ago when former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka pushed the site, but the community “came out in force” against it and the council, which ultimately approves the site, rejected the location.

If the committee, which consists of members throughout the island, recommends the site through its double-blind selection process this time around, he said, it will be harder to fight it.

“This is our savior,” Fujimoto said. “It’s an objective way of siting the landfill.”

For more information, visit www.kauai.gov/newlandfillsite

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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