County dumps need work

LIHUE — The County of Kauai is continuing work to get the Kekaha Landfill up to state Department of Health standards after receiving a warning letter from the DOH in November.

That letter notified county officials that the Kekaha Landfill was in danger of violating health standards for a malfunctioning system used to collect polluted water runoff, and for poorly maintained records.

It was sent after an inspection found loose litter on the ground, incomplete logs of unacceptable waste and leachate wells used to collect rainwater filtering through landfill waste that frequently exceeded levels which should have triggered alarms but didn’t.

According to county Department of Public Works Deputy County Engineer Lyle Tabata, those problems were left over from the landfill’s previous manager, Waste Management Hawaii, the company responsible for operations until December, when its relationship with the county ended in a contentious contractual dispute.

Tabata told the County Council at its regular meeting last week the leachate-monitoring system had not been functioning properly for “a long time” under Waste Management’s supervision, and that the company did nothing to fix the problem despite repeated reports from county workers.

The majority of the issues reported by DOH inspectors have been addressed since the county took over landfill operations on Dec. 1, according to Tabata. He said DPW has developed plans to correct the remaining issues and is developing more proactive methods to prevent future health violations.

Tabata also briefed the council on DPW’s efforts to resolve health violations issued to the county in 2016 for failing to meet federal standards requiring the monitoring and control of polluted rainwater runoff at its solid waste transfer stations.

“We got violations at all four stations,” he said at the council meeting. “Under my tenure, I guess you can say things caught up with us.”

Since then, Tabata said his department has worked to comply with health standards, but explained that extensive upgrades are required at transfer stations in Hanalei, Kapaa, Lihue and Hanapepe.

Projects to update the four facilities are planned to begin this summer, adding larger leachate storage tanks, constructing covered buildings to house waste, adding used-oil collection areas, among a number of other improvements to help operations comply with pollution-control standards.

Construction is expected to get underway at the Hanalei and Lihue transfer stations in July and be complete by March 2021. Upgrades at the Kapaa and Hanapepe sites should begin the following month, with all construction finished by May 2022.

Tabata told the council that bringing the transfer stations into compliance has “been a long road,” but said, “we’re at the end of it right now.”

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Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cloehrer@thegardenisland.com.

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