Maui County officials unveil three potential permanent Lahaina debris disposal sites
February 1, 2024, 8:53 AM HST
* Updated February 2, 5:55 AM
Two West Maui locations and the Central Maui Landfill are under consideration as permanent disposal sites for an estimated 400,000 cubic yards of ash and debris to be removed from Lahaina wildfire burn zones.
“Shipping the debris off of Maui is not one of the options,” Mayor Richard Bissen told about 300 people attending a Wednesday evening Disaster Recovery Community Update at the Lahaina Civic Center. “I know some people feel strongly about that, but that is not one of the options that we have today.”
Of the three potential sites, the two West Maui sites are in Wahikuli, mauka of the Wahikuli housing subdivision; and Crater Village, which comprises more than 500 acres located mauka of Wahikuli and north of public schools in Lahaina.
The Central Maui Landfill remains a candidate for permanent debris disposal, but it is 25 miles and a 40-minute drive away from Lahaina. Traffic could get bottled up with trucks hauling enough material estimated to fill five football fields five stories high.
“We anticipate major traffic impacts,” Agawa said.
For months after the Aug. 8 wildfire, emergency response teams cleared hazardous material left in the aftermath of the fire that leveled Lahaina town and claimed at least 100 lives. Later, residents were permitted reentry to assess damage to their homes. The Army Corps of Engineers began removal of debris on Jan. 16. Trucks haul tons of plastic-wrapped debris to a temporary storage site in Olowalu.
A community survey will be available at mauirecovers.org until Feb. 15. Maui County will analyze the input, and a final selection will be announced March 1, Agawa said.
Public input will be important in the final selection, he said. “Your input is going to help our team select the permanent debris site.”
The survey is designed not to indicate a site preference but to determine how the public weighs criteria at different sites, he said.
“We take the input. We apply that to our criteria scoring,” he said.
The survey will be available on mauirecovers.org, and a QR code is available for people with mobile devices to gain access to the website. Results of the survey are expected to be available to the public on Feb. 21.
The March 1 deadline for announcing a permanent site is driven by public and Maui County concerns about continuing to use Olowalu as a temporary storage site, he said.
“We’ve heard that from the community,” he said. “We have concerns ourselves. It’s a temporary site. It’s not meant to hold the debris for years and years and years. So, we really need to find a final site that’s designed to contain this debris.”
Of the three remaining final sites, each has its pros and cons, Agawa said. “There is no perfect site.”
The two West Maui sites have the advantage of being near the temporary disposal site in Olowalu. The Wahikuli site is undeveloped land and government-owned. On the down side, it’s proposed as a site for future housing, near the coastline and near a developed residential area.
The Crater Village site also is undeveloped and government-owned, and it is located away from existing residential areas. However, it is located above underground drinking water.
The Central Maui Landfill is undeveloped land located away from residential areas. It’s not over groundwater and is already planned for future landfill expansion, Agawa said. Traffic impacts are a concern for transporting the ash and debris from Olowalu to the landfill on Pūlehu Road.
The three final sites are what remain after consideration of first hundreds and then eight potential candidates for permanent debris disposal, Agawa said. Primary considerations for locations were public health and safety and environmental concerns. Other criteria for the three remaining sites were historic preservation, cultural sensitivity, distance to the coastline and prevailing winds.
During a question and answer session, officials were asked about separating toxic ash from soil, but that has been determined to be impractical. There was also a suggestion about bypassing temporary storage at Olowalu, but it’s uncertain how long it will take to prepare the final site for permanent disposal.
The meeting in its entirety is available for viewing here: