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Proposed Final Disposition Sites for Lāhainā debris and ash

Give feedback on criteria for selecting Final Disposition Site by February 15

On January 31 at the weekly Lāhainā community meeting, the County of Maui Director of Environmental Management, Shane Agawa, gave a presentation outlining the three proposed Final Disposition Sites including adjusted scoring criteria. He ended his presentation by opening up a survey for community input to weigh in on which criteria they value the most. Unfortunately there are only a couple of days left to complete the survey which will close on February 15. The county plans to announce the final site by March 1. 

Visit and click on give feedback to complete the survey and view the Department of Environmental Management's presentation from 1/31. 

Their initial evaluation criteria included following nine parameters: 

  1. Time to acquire land
  2. Proximity to Lāhainā (traffic congestion, public safety)
  3. Access into/out of site (alt access, turn movements)
  4. Constructibility 
  5. Surface Water Management
  6. Adjacent property impacts
  7. Distance to drinking water
  8. Distance to residential, school, hospital
  9. Natural/Environmental (tsunami, flooding, wetland, seismic activity)

Based on the public opposition to Olowalu as a proposed Final Disposition site, they adjusted the criteria to include the following: 

  1. Historic Preservation
  2. Cultural Sensitivity
  3. Distance to Coastline
  4. Prevailing winds

Why should the community be be concerned?

According to the EPA, all landfill sites will eventually leak due to wear and tear. The kind of landfill that is able to handle these types of toxic chemicals is rare, with only eight sites in the U.S. having the sufficient permitting. 

While there is certainly an urgency to get this toxic debris and ash to a controlled environment, the selection of the best possible site for this landfill is paramount. Many of these toxic contaminants that remain in the debris do not have the capacity to be broken down to non-toxic forms, making this an issue we need to think about indefinitely. 

Proposed locations: 

Wahikuli Area
Crater Village
Central Maui Landfill

Above slides are from presentation on Maui Recovers website. 

Breakdown of the Three Sites

Both the Wahikuli area and Crater village pose too many potential risks to the environment and public health. The Wahikuli site could pose significant health concerns to the human and marine community as it is in close proximity to residential areas and the coast. Depending on which location is selected in the Crater village parcel, the site has potential to be close to residential areas and/or a reservoir. Also, the Crater Village site could pose significant risk to drinking water as the entire proposed area is located above the Underground Injection Control line which designates potable drinking water above the boundary. There are also concerns that the County may bypass or fast-track Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for these sites, given the urgency to contain and remove the toxic ash and debris.

On the other hand, the Central Maui landfill (CML) site is the furthest from residential areas, the coast, and groundwater sources. In addition, the area was already planned for landfill use, there's prior geological knowledge of the area, and several Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) have been completed for Subtitle D landfilling around adjacent areas at CML. Given these factors, Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter is supporting the use of the CML site as the best on-island location for the final deposition of fire ash and debris.

The distance from the current Olowalu Temporary Disposal Site (TDS) is certainly a concern for transportation and traffic, but this is a short-term inconvenience that has long-term human and environmental health considerations. Furthermore, hauling and transportation of the debris to Central Maui could be completed during off-peak traffic hours.


Off-Island removal option: 

While Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter understands that off-island removal would likely be the best option in the long term, FEMA and the County of Maui have provided various reasons why they are not exploring this option. 

At the 1/31 community meeting, Mayor Bissen made it clear that shipping the debris off island is not being considered. This is likely in reference to a FEMA statement letter to council member Tamara Paltin, in December 2023 explaining the reasons why the federal government will not pay for off-island disposal. In this letter FEMA cited logistical, safety, and environmental reasons that made off-island disposal unrealistic. 

One of the logistical impediments they note is that Kahului Harbor would need to be used for off-island removal. In order for that to happen, another temporary facility would need to be constructed adjacent to Kahului port, and the port would potentially require further dredging to accommodate the required ship size. Additionally, because of all of the loading and unloading required for this operation, there would be significant risk for accidents with potential spill of toxic contaminants in Kahului Harbor and the surrounding area. 

Even once off of Maui, overseas shipping of 400,000 tons of waste containing toxins would be a highly complicated and expensive endeavor and require any number of transport and handling agreements, treaties, and state and federal regulations. The receiving port would also need to be a deep-water port with adequate handling equipment, and then the debris would need to be shipped by train to the final disposition site. Furthermore, FEMA has agreed to pay for the construction of the temporary site at Olowalu and the transport to the final disposition, but not shipping off-island. 

The Clean Harbors proposal was also brought up as a potential option in the Q and A section at the 1/31 meeting. The proposal outlines a plan to ship debris off-island for a discounted price and was supposedly sent to the Mayor's office days before the community meeting. The actual proposal was not made public, besides the fact that it would cost $400/ton at 150,000 tons per year. Even at a discounted price, which is well below the previous $4 billion price the county previously quoted for mainland shipping, the final cost would still far exceed the price of the current plan. Also, instead of full removal of ash and debris being completed in the projected one year time frame, this off-island operation would likely take up to three times longer. 

Despite the above reasons why off-island debris deposition  may be challenging, we are still open to supporting solutions that would accommodate off-island transport.


Current Call to Action- Online Survey 

Given the complications of off-island disposal, and the need to safely contain the ash and debris as soon as possible, the Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter is strongly urging the community to complete the survey and support the CML site for final debris deposition. 

Note that this survey only allows public input on which scoring criteria the public assigns most value to. The survey does not allow the public to specifically choose a site for the final debris deposition. 

To show your support for the CML as the final debris deposition site, you can rank  the metrics relating to distance from residential areas and distance to environmental features with ‘extreme importance’ (see example below). This will inevitably exclude the Wahikuli and Crater Village sites. 

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