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Trash talking: Panel to decide solid waste direction for the decade

Updated: 
October 26, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — Hawaii County is looking for some real trash-talkers.

Not the insulting kind. The kind who care passionately about — or have expertise in — solid waste planning.

It’s time for the county to update its integrated solid waste management plan, a document required by state law every 10 years to ensure local governments keep on top of their trash, green waste, compost and recycling issues.

Creating a five-member advisory panel, and hiring a consultant to manage the process and create a report, are the first steps. The county hopes to have an advisory panel in place by the beginning of the year.

“This isn’t some plan that’s done and sits on a shelf and doesn’t get looked at,” Solid Waste Division Chief Greg Goodale told the Environmental Management Commission on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, county administration is working on closing the Hilo landfill, determining a site for a planned compost operation, negotiating with Waste Management Inc. for lower tipping fees at the West Hawaii landfill at Puuanahulu and evaluating raising tipping fees commercial haulers pay the county.

The tipping fee is the amount paid per ton at the landfill to dump trash there. Residents, but not businesses, are able to dump their rubbish for free at 22 transfer stations islandwide.

The county anticipates no significant environmental impact from closing the Hilo landfill, a process that involves a host of state and federal regulatory agencies, which will cost almost $20 million and require monitoring for several decades after that. The current landfill has about two years left.

Proposed improvements include installing a final cover system on the top and side slopes of the landfill, installing a new passive landfill gas venting system and constructing a new storm water detention and infiltration basin. Prior to installation of the final cover, the slopes will be slightly regraded and a maintenance access road will be provided along with a perimeter ditch to direct the flow of storm water runoff, according to the environmental assessment.

The full 224-page environmental assessment can be downloaded at http://oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/EA_EIS_Library/2017-10-23-HA-DEA-South-Hilo-....

The public has until Nov. 22 to submit comments by sending them to the Department of Environmental Management, County of Hawaii, Gene Quiamas, Gene.Quiamas@hawaiicounty.gov 345 Kekuanaoa Street, Suite 41, Hilo, HI 96720, with a copy to consultant Wilson Okamoto Corp., Rebecca Candilasa, rcandilasa@wilsonokamoto.com, 1907 South Beretania St., Suite 400, Honolulu, HI 96826.

Another environmental assessment is planned as well, identifying three potential sites for a compost facility. Kim, shortly after taking office, eliminated the Hilo landfill site as a location for the compost operation after neighbors objected. The public will have a chance to weigh in once the environmental assessment is completed and published.

Three Keaau sites are now being considered, said Goodale. One is near the current Keaau transfer station; another is in the area of the Christian Liberty Academy and the third is near Shipman business park, Goodale said.

Costs continue to add up for the second component of closing the Hilo landfill — trucking all of the island’s garbage to Puuanahulu. The County Council earlier this month approved $1.7 million for a five-year lease-purchase agreement to obtain five trucks and trailers to haul the rubbish across the island.

Only about a third of the Solid Waste Division’s approximately $30 million annual budget is paid by fees. The rest comes from property taxes, a fact that bothers Environmental Management Commissioner Jon Olson.

“We need to move to where the user is actually the one who pays for the disposal,” Olson said. “See if we can change the funding mechanism.”

The 2009 integrated solid waste management plan had many recommendations that were taken to heart, including a path to zero waste that emphasizes reduction at the source as well as an aggressive recycling program. The county ban on plastic shopping bags is one success of the plan, said recycling coordinator George Hayducsko.

Other successes from the plan recommendations are a tire education program for businesses and consumers, an increase of reuse centers from three to seven, an increase in green waste dropoff sites from three to eight and improvements to recycling centers at the transfer stations.

One plan recommendation — a pay-to-throw program that would sell bag tags to consumers for their garbage — was met with considerable resistance and did not pass the County Council.

“We weren’t able to accomplish all of them, but a significant number were accomplished and were successful in a big way,” Goodale said.

Mayor Harry Kim will select the panel members from the applicants. They do not require County Council confirmation.

People interested in being on the panel can fill at an application from http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/office-of-the-mayor.

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