Constituent Issues – Private construction landfill

The Maui Construction and Demolition Landfill (“Landfill”) is located at the intersection of Honoapi`ilani Highway and North Kihei Road. It is a private, not a County, facility operated by and for construction contractors and trucking firms on land leased from A&B Properties. This location was originally the site of Pu`u Hele, a natural cinder cone. During WWII, the Navy quarried the area for materials to use in the construction of roads and airfields for military use, turning it into a large puka.

Around 1995 it was proposed as a private construction and demolition landfill, which was welcomed by the then Lingle administration since at that time already, the Central Maui Landfill was filling up. From the late 1990s through around 2005, the “pit” as it was then known routinely caught fire and smoldered underground as a result of poor management and the acceptance of readily combustible materials, including old rubber tires. Depending on wind conditions, both Ma`alaea and Kihei were frequently subjected to nauseating stench from the fires, contributing to the site’s notoriety.

Amendments to the landfill’s permit when it was extended for another 10 years in 2006 alleviated the combustion problems.  Meanwhile, however, the pit began to fill up until today it is more than full and is turning back into a Pu`u, this time a Pu`u Opala.  Now all of us, locals and visitors alike, are treated to the visual blight of this mountain of debris as it rises ever higher above the two highways at their intersection.  The only problem is that there were apparently no height restrictions imposed in the original permit or any of its extensions, so the operators can technically keep piling debris on it until 2016 when the current permit expires, and they may well argue successfully to continue operations due to the lack of height restrictions.

Mayor Arakawa’s office says it’s a private facility. The Planning Department says the permit is legitimate and will take no action. Planning Director Spence was the original planner who shepherded the landfill through its original permitting process nearly 20 years ago.  The State Department of Health, ostensibly with jurisdiction, will do nothing.  If you live in West Maui and drive to and from Central Maui you cannot help but observe the landfill in operation with its earthmoving equipment, dump trucks and clouds of dust, as the mountain of trash grows ever higher by the day.

The landfill problem is an island-wide problem.  It is not confined to the Ma`alaea/Kihei area.  There are also numerous environmental issues, such as polluted rainwater runoff into adjacent Pohakea Gulch and thence into Ma`alaea Bay. The main issue is that for the past 15 years one administration after the other has known that someday the pit would be full, and yet absolutely no plans for an alternate site have ever been made. Today the pit is more than full and still no effort has been made to find an alternative site, public or private.  Worse, accepted environmental impact statements for upcoming projects, such as the Pu`unene Heavy Industrial Subdivision, state that construction debris will be deposited in the Maui Construction and Demolition Landfill, as though there is no tomorrow.

Various community and environmental groups have gotten absolutely nowhere with the administration, the council and the state.  Perhaps you could campaign on this issue, among others, and, if elected, maybe you can actually do something about it.  If nothing else, get some height restrictions and make sure they are enforced.

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