LIHU‘E — The county is behind on its savings needed to close the Kekaha Landfill.
The county is required to estimate closure and post-closure care costs for the landfill, and that timeline to save is getting shorter with the Kekaha Landfill Phase II now projected to hit capacity in June 2027.
The estimated closing costs are about $26.2 million, and the county has about $15.4 million saved away already, Acting Solid Waste Management Division Head Allison Fraley reported Monday to the Kaua‘i County Council.
However, the county needs to make up about $10.9 million, Fraley said.
A fiscal year 2020 audit found that the county used an incorrectly dated Closure and Post-Closure Plan for the Kekaha Landfill Phase II back in FY19. That resulted in the county overstating its financials by $4.4 million.
To make up for it, the administration’s FY22 budget is seeking $847,300 for the shutdown costs of the second cell in the Public Works Division budget.
The landfill has a lifespan of approximately five and a half more years, Acting County Engineer Troy Tanigawa said. The administration is in the process of a vertical expansion, projected at $335,200 in the budget. That will add four more year, which began being used in late 2019.
County Managing Director Michael Dahilig said that these plans have not been flagged as a concern for the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility, which is next to the landfill.
According to federal Environmental Protection Agency rules, within 30 days of hitting capacity, the landfill must be closed.
Dahilig said that the administration currently having “ongoing” discussions with the state’s Agribusiness Development Corporation, Board of Land and Natural Resources as well as state and federal aviation authorities for a new landfill site at Ma‘alo.
Councilmember Billy DeCosta noted that this timeline is tight.
“After seven years, we have only one year to move into this new landfill area, and I believe that the ongoing talks with the airport and federal government need to solidify a decision soon,” DeCosta said.
And that’s why the vertical expansion is so important, Dahilig said, it’s partially there to provide a buffer of time.
“If we do not have buy-in from the state or we have federal preemption issue, then the site becomes untenable,” Dahilig said.
But there could be another potential plan.
The Missile Defense Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense is currently in the environmental scoping process of developing a $1.9-billion, Homeland Defense Radar – Hawai‘i and one site being considered is at PMRF.
Councilmember Felicia Cowden said the administration has been having ongoing conversations with the federal government, and the topic of the landfill has come up.
“It’s (the HDR-H) likely to have a serious impact on our infrastructure,” Cowden said.
From prior conversations, Crowden suggested that the agency may be open to contributing monetarily to the landfill, and intends to ask during next week’s meeting with MDA.
But diversion and new waste solutions, Dahilig said, are also on the table.
One project from the Capital Improvement Projects Budget also proposes a $300,000 contract for a feasibility study for converting the Green Energy Plant located near Mt. Kahili to incinerate trash.
Dahilig said that the project is not just targeted at that plant.
“If we were to focus the inquiry just on that facility, we would be limited the scope of understanding what our capabilities are and whether we actually to need to have a facility like that,” Dahilig said.
The Kekaha Landfill Phase I opened in 1953, and closed in 1993. Phase II was initially vertically expanded in 1998 to about 60-feet above mean sea level, according to a July 2013 draft environmental assessment for the expansion.
In late 2019, the county took over management of the landfill from Waste Management over a contractual dispute. In the department’s FY22 budget and operations synopsis, Tanigawa noted that, “Although challenges … exist, morale is high.”