Trash To Treasure

Molokai Planning Commission addresses waste management.


By Catherine Cluett

Molokai Integrated Solid Waste Facility
Molokai residents and planners got together to talk trash last Wednesday. But the only bad-mouthing was about how Molokai’s waste is, well, going to waste. Billy Buchanan and Steve Price have a better idea – turn the trash to electricity instead of burying it. 

The Molokai Planning Commission hosted a discussion on improvements to the existing waste management facilities on Molokai, and heard a presentation by Kamehameha Environmental LLC on an advanced waste disposal technology.  Molokai residents Buchanan, a board member of Kamehameha Environmental LLC, and Price, Kamehameha Environmental’s Chief Operation Officer, showed a short video on the process and answered Commissioners’ questions about their trash-to-energy initiative.  

The Herhof Stabilat process, explains Price, involves the mechanical sorting of waste into recyclables and solid waste. Materials such as glass are sorted by color, compressed, and sold as a reusable resource. Moisture is removed from solid waste, and it is then stabilized and compressed before being placed in a heat exchange unit to create energy. An air purifying system is a key component of the Herhof process, and energy produced by Herhof plants are virtually emissions-free. Price says the plant exceeds Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.  

“A small version of the plant could create enough power to support Molokai with the addition of solar panels on the roof of the facility,” says Price. He adds that Herhof plants offer a source of “firm power,” unlike wind and solar, which are not constant due to dependence on weather conditions.  

“The plant is safer than the landfill both for the environment and its employees,” says Buchanan. “It would provide 20 jobs on Molokai that reduce health risks for employees and offer better pay.” 

The Herhof process is being used successfully in Germany, France, Italy, and Belgium, and Kamehameha Environmental LLC has already taken steps to bring the system to Hawaii.  

“The landfill mountain on Molokai gets bigger and bigger – that’s our legacy. What can we do about it?” challenges Steve Chaikin, chair of the Molokai Planning Commission. “The current landfill location is good until 2015, with the possibility of expanding onto an addition 9 acres, which would give us until 2029,” adds Chaikin. “And less than half of Molokai recycles.”  

A community member suggested placing recycling pick-up bins in various locations around the island, so residents wouldn’t have to save up their recycling to bring all the way to the landfill, especially if they live in more remote locations.  

The Molokai Planning Commission will continue to explore waste management options for the island.
To Jet Ski or Not to Jet Ski?
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) says jet ski use is not permitted except in designated areas. But the written ordinance addressing the issue is unclear, says the Planning Commission, and has been causing controversy in the community.

“There’s no urgency to fix problem,” said Chaikin. He hopes the DLNR will step it up a notch to clarify the ordinance in the near future.  

Commissioner Bill Feeter suggested the matter be presented to the Governor’s Advisory Council to expedite the process.  

Buchanan explains that the Molokai Community Plan says jet skis are prohibited, and the rules need to be clarified to agree with the Plan to uphold its integrity as the guiding force of the Molokai Planning Commission.  

Nancy McPherson of the Maui County Planning Commission will draft a letter on behalf of the Molokai Planning Commission requesting that the jet ski ordinance be revised for clarity, and the item will remain on the agenda for further discussion in future meetings. 

Is It Appealing?
People with such violations as illegally tapping water pipes are not only getting off easy with a capped fine of $1000, said Chaikin, but they can also potentially “shop around” to see which agency they would like to hear their appeal.

Joe Alueta, representing the Planning Director of Maui County, presented Commissioners with a Council Resolution to clarify which government body hears appeals of civil fines and violations.  

The item had been deferred from last meeting because of a lack of agreement among Commissioners about a proposed clause to be added to the ordinance. The clause would transfer the hearing of appeals for violation fines of certain natures to be heard by the Board of Variants and Appeals (BVA) instead of the Department of Water Supply (DWS).  

The Resolution was again deferred because of a lack of Commissioners’ unanimous agreement.  

Airport Fire Station Improvements
When things get hot, airport firefighters would welcome a comfortable space to cool down after a long day. But while keeping us safe is an important task, Commissioners question the necessity of additional facilities at Molokai Airport.

Department of Transportation Airports Division requested comment from the Molokai Planning Commission on a pre-Environmenal Assessment for Molokai Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Station improvements. These improvements would include dorms, showers, and lockers for firefighters.  

Chaikin commented that in these economically challenging times, there is a “need to separate wants and needs,” adding that these improvements are being requested right after a “temporary” fire and rescue facility was recently completed on airport premises. He also suggested that if local firefighters were employed instead of hiring off-island, housing facilities would not be needed.  

Commissioner Lori Buchanan said there was not enough information provided in the preliminary plan on which to comment. 

The next Molokai Planning Commission meeting will be held on Oct. 22, at 12:30 pm, at the Mitchell Pauole Center.   


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