KEKAHA — A $4.1 million project to capture the methane gas coming out of the Kekaha landfill is in the works, thanks to a low-interest loan secured from the State Revolving Fund program, administered by the state’s Department of Health.
Acting county engineer Lyle Tabata said construction will really begin when materials make their way over from the mainland. Planning for the project has been in the works for about four years and the county hired consultants to do the design.
“Right now its mostly staging work (at the site),” Tabata said. “Work will start once the pipe gets to the island.”
According to Troy Tanigawa, solid waste manager for the county, the instillation of the gas capture system is due to federal regulations.
“When any landfill reaches a certain capacity, the EPA requires that you have a (gas collection) system,” Tanigawa said. “That’s true for all landfills, once you hit that threshold.”
Tanigawa said when the county secured the permits for the second phase of the landfill in 2014, which pushed the landfill over the capacity threshold and sparked the need to install a collection system.
A gas collection system contains the methane gas generated by decomposing trash at the landfill; it is necessary so that nothing else sparks.
“Methane gas is highly flammable,” Tabata said. “It’s also a very potent greenhouse gas.”
Helping reduce Kauai’s carbon footprint is the other goal with the installation of the gas collection system because methane gas is more potent than carbon dioxide and contributes to Kauai’s effect on the environment.
“Capturing methane from the Kekaha landfill is a critical project to reduce Kauai’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.
While installing gas collection system is routine, Kauai is taking it one step further by studying the ways in which they can use the methane gas they’ve captured.
“We are looking at turning it into liquid natural gas and possibly selling it to a company on Oahu, or work with KIUC,” Tabata said. “We’re also looking at ways to convert part of our bus fleet so we can use it to power our buses.”
Those ideas, however, are still in their research phase. Until the county can identify the quality and capacity of the methane, they’ll be burning it off with a flare.
“This is another step for Kauai toward being independent and sustainable,” Tabata said.
Tanigawa said staff members at the county have known for a few years that the landfill was going to need a gas collection system, and that they’ve been informally getting their ducks in a row for the project.
“Sometimes we’re able to plan ahead a bit and we’ve had time with this,” Tanigawa said.
Tabata said this isn’t the first time the county has had to install a gas collection system — the county installed one at the Halehaka Landfill before it was closed in 1994.
Once construction reaches full swing, Tanigawa said area residents will see an uptick of activity at the landfill, but that should be the extent of the effect the project will have on public activity.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.