The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today a $5.1 million settlement with the Maui County to address alleged air pollution violations at the Central Maui Landfill in Puunene, including the construction of new gas-collections systems and a wind farm.
Maui County must implement enhanced monitoring for the landfill's air toxins, organic compounds and methane gas, which are produced by the decomposition of trash.
The gases can be a serious underground fire hazard, according to an EPA news release. The Maui Fire Department also must follow certain response procedures in the event of such a blaze.
The solutions even go as far as the country agreeing to build a roughly $250,000, eight-turbine wind farm in order to reduce fossil fuel power plant emissions near the landfill.
The new wind farm should be capable of producing 55,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, or 38 percent of the landfill's power needs. In the process, the project would be reducing the landfill and county's reliance on fossil fuels, the EPA stated.
The county estimated it already has spent $4.5 million to design and construct the landfill gas-collection and control system required by the federal Clean Air Act.
The settlement's consent decree, lodged in U.S. District Court, remains subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.
"The project is aligned with sustainability goals of the County and the State of Hawaii," noted the EPA.
A similar project was outlined by former Mayor Charmaine Tavares as an alternative energy source. It was unclear Wednesday whether this new gas-collection system will be capable of producing power as Tavares had once planned.
The EPA said its actions stem from the fact that such systems are required by federal law for large landfills.
They collect gases generated by decomposing refuse, which can produce "a potent greenhouse gas" in methane, the EPA stated. These measures can control the release of these gases into the atmosphere.
The settlement resolves allegations that Maui County violated the Clean Air Act by failing to design, construct and operate a gas collection/control system, apply for a permit from the state Department of Health, prepare a startup, shutdown and malfunction plan,and operate controls within the gas-temperature limit, the EPA alleged.
Maui County also must pay a $380,000 civil penalty.
"Today's settlement is good news for the families living in Kahului," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA Pacific Southwest regional administrator, in a statement. "Achieving compliance with the Clean Air Act and reducing emissions at a landfill and the power plant, while supporting renewable energy, is a win-win."