PRINCEVILLE — An investigation is being launched by the Department of Health to determine if the Kauai County Hanalei Transfer Station is properly managing its stormwater containment areas, officials from the DOH confirmed with The Garden Island Wednesday.
Steven Chang, chief of Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch for the DOH, said his branch is coordinating with the DOH’s Clean Water Branch and the Underground and Injection Control Program on allegations of stormwater coming in contact with waste material.
“From what I gathered, there’s rainfall going off the property and coming in contact with different kinds of activities at the transfer station,” he said. “When they’re compacting the waste into a trailer, (that) could be causing some water to be released into the hopper. It falls down to the ground and if that gets caught up with rainwater, that’s another issue to deal with.”
Chang said the DOH received complaints in late July.
One complaint came from county employee Benjamin Kuhaulua, an equipment operator at the Hanalei Transfer Station.
“We get issues of self-containment on our facility,” Kuhaulua said. “We have no self-containment and it goes into the ground or goes into the river we have in the back of our facility. It goes into a freshwater stream, which goes into the ocean.”
The river behind the transfer station leads to Anini Beach.
Larry Dill, Kauai County engineer, said measures are in place to manage runoff from the transfer station’s hopper area.
“Information provided includes current measures put in place to manage runoff from the hopper area including monitoring and maintenance of the wet well and the waste hopper area, monitoring and maintenance of the silt fence on the lower end of the property,” he said.
Dill said a design replacement for the wet well and stormwater BMP’s (Best Management Practices) is anticipated to be proposed for construction within the next two years.
One problem, Chang said, is a sump that’s causing material to overflow by the hopper area. A sump is a depression in the ground in which liquid is collected.
“It doesn’t seem that the sump they have is working. From what we gather, there’s potential it’s overflowing – not working right,” he said. “There may be a need to berm the areas where the – for a lack of better word – stuff that’s being squeezed out of the hopper that’s being controlled.”
Chang said, however, that berms, an artificial ridge or embankment, may be a temporary solution to alleviate overflow.
“Just imagine if you took your garbage from your house and squeezed it out, all the stuff that came out of that,” he said. “That would be the main thing. We don’t want those things to get in the stream, so there needs to be better management.”
Dill said the wet well is pumped on a monthly basis for the past few years and a manhole was recently installed to improve access for maintenance purposes.
“Wastewater is hauled and disposed of at a county wastewater treatment plant.” he said. “If heavy rains are anticipated, a wastewater pumping service is on emergency standby to respond in two hours. During one recent rainstorm, it was determined that the wet well became filled to capacity, however the report also confirmed that wet well contents did not overflow.”
Kuhaulua said measures such as the installation of a manhole cover is a “Band Aid solution.”
“We have a leach water catchment or cesspool and we have a catch basin to catch the leach water that comes off a compactor, but every time it rains the water runs into a catch basin, which overflows the leach to the cesspool,” he said. “Then you have all this leach water that goes on the ground and it goes straight to a ditch that goes to the fresh water stream, which goes to the end of Anini.”
Dill said the county estimated that “environmental impacts are not significant.”
“Our regular monitoring conducted in accordance with our DOH NPDES (Department of Health National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit yielded some results in excess of the MCLs (Maximum Contaminant Levels) established by the permit,” he wrote in an email. “We have been working with the DOH on the mitigating measures, and because they have allowed us to continue to operate while the work is being accomplished.”
Chang said maximum contaminant levels at the station are being investigated by the DOH.
“I think we have to look at the data that’s coming out from the clean water branch,” he said.