Groups Challenge EIS for Proposed Kahului Sludge Farm

June 4, 2018, 2:18 PM HST · Updated June 4, 2:18 PM
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Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Kanahā, Maui. Photo May 2015 by Wendy Osher.

The Sierra Club Maui Group and Maui Tomorrow are challenging Maui County and Anaergia Services’ proposed sludge farm and power plant along the Kahului shoreline by filing a lawsuit in Maui’s Environmental Court on Thursday.

Under the proposal, sludge from wastewater treatment facilities at Kīhei, Lahaina, and the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility would reportedly be trucked to a site at the Kahului Wastewater Facility and dried using methane gas byproducts of the anaerobic digestion of “biocrops” grown on 500 acres of former sugar cane lands, with additional energy from a propane burner.

This process is also proposed to generate electricity for the Kahului Wastewater Facility.

The community groups challenge Anaergia’s preparation of the EIS, as opposed to the county, and claim there was a failure to adequately consider sea level rise predictions.

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The groups further contend that the proposal will result in more than 3,000 tons per year of dried sludge and nearly 30,000 tons per year of biocrop byproduct “digestate,” with no indication from the EIS on how the county will dispose of it.

Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone responded to our request for comment saying, “It’s a pending legal matter so we can’t comment.”

Maui Tomorrow Executive Director, Albert Perez said, “Taxpayers should not be burdened with underwriting complicated science experiments that will only cost taxpayers more money and likely do nothing to protect the environment. Maui County needs to move forward, not backward, by getting the Kahului treatment facility out of the tsunami zone and away from sea level rise.”

“Sierra Club is very much in favor of increasing the use of renewable energy, including in microgrids for specific purposes,” said Rob Weltman, president of Sierra Club Maui Group. “However, it must be done in a responsible way which does not result in new threats to our sensitive shoreline environment.”

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