East Hawaii News

Hawaii County Fined $350,000 for Landfill Violations

May 8, 2014, 12:48 PM HST
* Updated May 8, 2:21 PM
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***Updated 1:51 p.m.***

The Department of Health has assessed Hawaii County more than $350,000 in penalties for permit violations relating to the operation of the county’s two solid waste landfills dating back to early 2013.

State health officials said the county failed to cover solid waste deposited in the Hilo landfill for approximately 28 days between Jan. 1 and May 31, 2013.

Steven Chang, program manager for the DOH’s Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch, said newly deposited waste is to be covered at least daily with either a soil-rock mixture or by tarps, which the county has been given permission to use.

The violation was discovered during inspections carried out May 23-24, 2013, the DOH said today in a press release.

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It said the county also did not monitor groundwater quality at the landfill off the Leilani Street extension on at least one occasion, and also failed to monitor for explosive gas along the landfill’s perimeter for a six-month period between September 2012 and June 2013.

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State health officials said the county also failed to properly dispose of whole tires, which are not allowed in the landfill.

Chang said the tires may be placed in the landfill if they have been cut into pieces or shredded, but may not be landfilled if whole.

The state has fined Hawaii County $328,190 for those violations of its solid waste permit. The county has requested a hearing to challenge the allegations.

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The DOH also has imposed a penalty of $21,900 for the unpermitted storage this year of between 800 and 1,000 tons of scrap metal and appliances, also known as “white goods,” at its West Hawaii Sanitary Landfill located in Puuanahulu in North Kona.

The department said that violation was discovered during an inspection on March 5.

According to Chang, the county had indicated that it intended to accumulate the scrap metal and white goods. However, he said it failed to file a plan to modify the landfill permit regarding the handling of refrigerant and other aspects of such storage.

As a result, the county has been ordered to dispose of all accumulated scrap metal and white goods and cease accepting more.

The DOH said the county may also request a hearing to contest those allegations.

Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd, director of the county Department of Environmental Management, told Big Island Now the county requested the hearing to contest some of the allegations and show that others are being addressed.

Regarding the coverage of the active portion of the landfill, she disputed the length of time involved, adding that some of the tarps being used had become shredded and are being replaced. Also, additional funds have been placed in the budget for more gravel for cover.

She said the scrap metal problem in West Hawaii was the result of a protest over a change in contractors, and the accumulated materials are already being moved.

Leithead-Todd said she wanted to note that the issue is strictly operational in nature.

“There was no contamination or any risk of health to the public,” she said.

She said DEM will meet with state health officials in hopes of reducing the fines, and to ensure that the steps the county is taking are adequate.

Most of the violations occurred prior to Leithead-Todd’s appointment to the post in July 2013.

The Hilo landfill is expected to reach its capacity within two years, and the county is currently soliciting proposals for a waste-to-energy facility to replace it.

While the county operates the Hilo landfill, the one in West Hawaii is operated under contract by Waste Management of Hawaii.

Chang said the storage of scrap metal was taking place outside of the area under Waste Management’s control.

Waste Management was indicted late last month by a federal grand jury for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with its operation of the Waimanalo Gulch landfill on Oahu.

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