HONOLULU (KHON2) — The toxic debris and ash from Lahaina is one step closer to finding a permanent resting spot.
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The state land board approved a 19-acre property next to the old Olowalu landfill as a disposal spot, but concerns about the reef and sacred area were brought up too.
On Friday, the BLNR approved the use of land which is about five miles from Lahaina as the final disposal site, but several organizations raised concerns with the debris sitting in Olowalu and 400 yards from the ocean.
One woman said that the generational families from Olowalu are upset and disappointed they weren’t consulted about the site. “There may be burials where the site sits, wahi pana, and guarantee the people of Olowalu fish out there too,” said one testifier.
Several environmental organizations said they understood the need to remove the debris quickly but worry about the long term impacts.
“Once you close it off and bury the debris, are there going to be feasible ways to address if it seeps into the groundwater and goes to the coastline?” said Russell Sparks/, DLNR Division of Aquatics Resources Maui district.
In 2017, Olowalu was designated as a Blue Zone Hope Spot, which is vital to the health of the oceans. Experts said the nearly 1,000 acre reef is home to the largest known manta ray population in the US and the oldest coral in the main Hawaiian islands.
“Adding a landfill here could be another stressor to the ecosystem here which could have detrimental impacts on this area,” said Scott Crawford, Director of the Maui Nature Conservancy.
Maui County said it will excavate the site, and line it to prevent leaching into the groundwater.
“It sounds pretty and nice but what’s going to happen after 30 years when the plastic deteriorates?” asked
After emotional county testimony, the board approved the request.
“I trust you because you guys live there, you are accountable to your family, to your neighbors and ohana, but you’ve heard from people that this is just the beginning of a much larger discussion,” said BLNR chair Dawn Chang.
“This is not something that will be done tomorrow,” said Mahina Martin, Maui County communications director, about the debris moving to Olowalu.
One county worker said if its signed off by the Governor, it could take six to eight months for the site to be built in Olowalu.
“We have to be expeditious because we have to get the ash out of Lahaina town and its important the ash doesn’t run off into the ocean or into our sewer system,” Martin added. “Our residents want to return and the clean up will allow for the planning to take place at a better pace.”
Now its up to Governor Josh Green to issue an executive order.