Council grants initial OK to pay waste fines

WAILUKU – The Maui County Council gave initial approval for the county to pay a penalty of $70,000 for alleged violations at the Central Maui and Molokai landfills in 2011.

Members on Friday approved two bills to authorize Mayor Alan Arakawa to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the state Department of Health to settle alleged violations at both facilities by paying the cash penalty ($50,000 for Central Maui and $20,000 for Molokai) and by agreeing to perform approved supplemental environmental projects to mitigate the possibility of future violations at the Central Maui Landfill.

The cost of the supplemental projects must be at least $70,000, according to the bill.

Deputy Environmental Management Department Director Mike Miyamoto said Friday that the department already has developed plans and procedures to make sure the violations do not reoccur.

The bills require a second and final reading before the council. The next full council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 7.

According to county documents on the Central Maui Landfill, the Health Department alleges that the county failed to maintain its leachate (liquid that moves through the landfill) at compliance levels from January to April in 2011.

The Health Department also alleges that the county failed to monitor and record leachate levels before and after leachate pumping on a daily basis and after a storm.

Initially, the Health Department assessed a penalty of $121,900, but the figure was lowered in a negotiated settlement that avoided a contested case hearing requested by the county, which disputed the allegations.

Environmental Management Director Kyle Ginoza told council members at a committee meeting that early in 2011, there were storms that generated leachate at levels above what the landfill was able to accommodate. In reaction to the problem, Miyamoto said Friday that when the department knows that a “rain event” is coming it pumps down as much water as it can from the landfill as a preventative measure.

He said that the solid waste and wastewater divisions have formed a better relationship, working together to remove the leachate.

Some leachate also is sprayed on the landfill for dust control on a sporadic basis. Miyamoto said the county is seeking approval from the Health Department to use the leachate to spray the landfill on a regular basis.

Regarding the supplemental projects required in the agreement, Miyamoto said the county is seeking to develop a household hazardous waste collection program, where the department, with approval of the Health Department, will collect chemicals, such the Roundup herbicide and household cleaners.

On Molokai, the alleged violations were found during an inspection on April 11, 2011, and through documents provided by the county. The Health Department said that the county allowed litter to spread outside of the landfill property and failed to collect and properly dispose of windblown material, according to council documents.

The Health Department also alleges that the county failed to place daily cover material on areas of the landfill.

Initially, the Health Department ordered the county to pay $20,955, but through a negotiated settlement that figure was reduced to $20,000. The negotiated settlement was done to avoid a contested case hearing requested by the county, which disputed the allegations.

Ginoza had told a council committee that in the beginning of 2011, excessive rain led to soil erosion in covered areas of the landfill that resulted in some trash being exposed. Miyamoto said an issue at rural landfills, such as on Molokai, is having adequate staff, which led to the alleged violation.

He said sometimes workers from Maui are flown over to other islands to assist when workers are sick or on vacation. The department is asking the county administration to add more positions for its rural landfills to help with the staff shortages, Miyamoto added.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at