Closing the Hilo Landfill

Oct 27, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Waste disposal is a challenge for residents of any island. On Hawai‘i Island, county officials have been talking about the potential closure of the Hilo Landfill for more than three decades. Now, county officials say the closure will happen—and this time there’s a definite timeline. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has an update.

Bill Kucharski is head of Hawai'i County Department of Environmental Management. Part of his responsibility is solid waste, and the county has two landfills plus 22 transfer stations. He says the Hilo Landfill’s life has been extended repeatedly by good management, but will close within 18 months. Closing a landfill is not cheap.

“Bill 32 which is money to fund the closure, was unanimously passed by the Council. $20 million dollars. Closing the landfill has two phases. The first phase is when you stop taking waste. Once we stop taking waste, we have to go through a process of closing that landfill by putting permeable covers on, and layers.  We have been in the design portion of that, we’ve spoken to the people at DOH, Department of Health, who supervise us and regulate that closure. We’ve gotten good reviews on what we’re proposing.”

Kucharski explains that federal and state requirements mean the County must continue to maintain the landfill for decades.

“We have a 30-year monitoring requirement on the closure.  We have to continuously maintain and take groundwater samples and show to the Department of Health that we’re not getting a lot of infiltration of groundwater or rainwater into and through the landfill. It’ll be a 30 year process.”

Once the Hilo Landfill closes, all the county’s waste will go to the Pu’uanahulu Landfill in Waikoloa. Today Pu’uanahulu Landfill gets around 130 trucks a day--county, private haulers, and households, plus green waste.  Kucharski says with the closure of Hilo Landfill, 8 additional trucks will go from the old Hilo Landfill to Pu’uanahulu, over Saddle Road.