County prepares to start hauling trash to Kona

HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Vehicles leave the Hilo landfill in this 2015 file photo.

In about another month, Hawaii County’s Department of Environmental Management expects delivery of the first three trucks and trailers it will use to haul rubbish across the island following closure of the Hilo landfill.

Bill Kucharski, department director, said each of the truck and trailer pairs cost $330,000. Five more will be ordered, and bids on those will close next week, he said.

Kucharski said the county will have the 20-ton trailers on hand by the end of the year when the Hilo landfill could reach capacity. Afterward, waste from windward transfer stations will be hauled from Hilo to the county’s other landfill at Pu‘uanahulu in West Hawaii, an approximately 70-mile trek.

The trucks will transport about 160 tons of waste per day, he said.

The trailers used to haul waste from the transfer stations will still be in use, and the county needed additional vehicles to transport to Pu‘uanahulu, Kucharski said. The new trailers also will haul green waste from West Hawaii to East Hawaii, where a mulching and composting facility is planned to be built.

“We want to make sure we have good solid pieces of equipment for these functions,” he said.

Closure of the landfill is expected to cost about $20 million, according to a recently completed environmental assessment.

Kucharski said the closure, which would include a new cover system, passive gas venting and a new storm water detention and infiltration basin, would take 18 months to complete.

He said the county will proceed with final closure design following the 30-day period to challenge the EA, which was published Feb. 8.

Depending on how much waste is accepted, the landfill could reach its capacity by November or possibly as late as March 2019, Kucharski estimated.

“The issue that we have with the closure is we don’t know exactly when it will be closed,” he said. “It depends on how much waste material we get in.”

“We do know that once we reach the maximum elevation we will then physically stop taking any kind of commercial waste into the facility,” Kucharski added.

Expanding the Hilo landfill has been considered impractical because of permitting issues, the heavy amounts of rain Hilo receives, proximity to the airport and residences, and costs.

“Closing that landfill I think will be a net positive for the community,” he said.

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