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Maui Court Voids Final EIS Approval for Kahului Sludge Farm

April 30, 2019, 11:09 AM HST · Updated May 2, 6:12 AM
Wendy Osher · 0 Comments
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Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Treatment facility. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Maui Environmental Court Judge Joseph E. Cardoza today voided the acceptance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the County’s proposed Kahului Sludge Farm project.

The waste-to-energy project is proposed for development by the County of Maui with Anaergia Services and its subsidiary MANA at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility near Kanahā.

MANA site rendering. PC: courtesy MANA/EISPN.

The community groups, Sierra Club Maui Group and Maui Tomorrow Foundation filed suit last year challenging the project’s EIS.

The groups’ attorney Lance D. Collins said, “While the county has increasingly relied upon privatization to accomplish historic government functions, the government cannot escape full environmental review of its proposed projects simply by involving private businesses.”

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According to Collins, the Court ruled the project must still go through the environmental review process for government projects and not the review process for private projects. He noted that the entire project would occur at the Kahului Treatment Facility on county land with county funds.

Michael Williams, President of Maui Tomorrow Foundation said, “Even without considering the serious environmental problems with this project, it would have ended up costing Maui taxpayers tens of millions of dollars with no real benefit over the life of the project.”

Under the proposal, sludge from wastewater treatment facilities at Kīhei, Lahaina, and the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility would be trucked to a site at the Kahului Treatment Facility.  The sludge would then be dried using methane gas byproducts of the anaerobic digestion of materials grown on 500 acres of former sugar cane lands with a propane burner. This process was proposed to also generate electricity for the Kahului Treatment Facility that the county would purchase.

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In a description of the project back in 2017, county officials had said the project is not designed to export electrical energy to the grid. Instead, the goal of the project is to provide locally sourced renewable energy to assist the county in providing a long term sustainable solution for bio-solids management.

County officials tell Maui Now that Mayor Victorino has not had an opportunity to discuss this development with Corporation Counsel.

Maui County Communications Director Brian Perry responded to our request for comment on Tuesday afternoon saying, “We are considering Judge Cardoza’s ruling and our options going forward.”

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

***Note: Maui Now reached out to Anaergia for a response via email this morning, but had not heard back at the time of this publication.  When a response is available, this post will be updated or a new one will be published.  

 

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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