The Maui News: Suit challenges EIS approval for wastewater plant

Suit challenges EIS approval for wastewater plant

Anaergia aims to install anaerobic digester to produce methane gas

The Maui News

The Sierra Club Maui Group and Maui Tomorrow have filed a lawsuit challenging the approval of an environmental impact statement for Anaergia Services’ project with Maui County for a renewable energy conversion and sludge processing project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility.

The project led by Anaergia’s Maui All Natural Alternative aims to install an anaerobic digester to produce methane gas from energy crops grown on 500 acres of former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. lands. The gas would be refined at the Kahului wastewater facility site and fuel a combined heat-and-power engine to generate electricity for the treatment plant located on 18.8 acres next to the ocean on Amala Place.

Waste heat from the engine would dry wastewater solid matter, known as “sludge.”

Undried sludge has been used for years as raw material for Maui EKO Systems to create compost at the Central Maui Landfill. Without the sludge, EKO is expected to go out of business.

According to the plaintiffs’ announcement of the lawsuit, the project entails trucking sludge from wastewater facilities in Kihei and Lahaina to the Kahului facility to be dried using methane gas byproducts of the plant’s anaerobic digestion project.

The announcement says that Anaergia was the sole bidder for the project. Anaergia holds a county waste-to-energy landfill gas contract, which an independent auditor determined would cost the county $35 million more than anticipated, the plaintiffs said.

The groups challenge Anaergia’s preparation of the environmental impact statement, as opposed to the county, “for reasons including the county’s unwritten policy of imposing less-strict oversight over projects for which they have outside entities prepare an EIS.”

They also contend the environmental review failed to adequately consider predicted sea-level rise.

“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,” said Maui Tomorrow Executive Director Albert Perez. “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 Maui Group President Rob Weltman said: The “Sierra Club is very much in favor of increasing the use of renewable energy, including 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.”

There was no immediate comment Thursday afternoon from Maui County or Anaergia.

County officials have said Anaergia would develop the facility at no construction cost to the county. In return, the county would pay 29 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity produced at the plant. The cost of disposing the sludge would be reduced from $103 to $80 per ton by switching from EKO Compost to Anaergia, officials said.

Built in 1973, the wastewater treatment plant can treat up to 7.9 million gallons of Central Maui wastewater daily. The plant is forecast to reach its treatment capacity by 2030.

Press Release: COMMUNITY GROUPS CHALLENGE EIS FOR PROPOSED KAHULUI SLUDGE FARM AND POWER PLANT

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Immediate Release: May 31, 2018

Contact: Lance D. Collins (808) 243-9292 lawyer@maui.net

 

COMMUNITY GROUPS CHALLENGE EIS
FOR PROPOSED KAHULUI SLUDGE FARM AND POWER PLANT

 

KAHULUI, MAUI – 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 today. The groups are represented by attorney Lance D. Collins.

The groups challenge the County Environmental Management Director’s approval of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Anaergia’s proposed sludge processing, energy generation, and biocrop growing/burning project. Under the proposal, sludge from wastewater treatment facilities at Kīhei, Lahaina, and the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility
(Kahului Wastewater Facility) would 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 project was first proposed through a county procurement. Anaergia was the sole bidder in that process. Anaergia also currently holds a County waste-to energy landfill gas contract, which an independent auditor determined will cost the County $35 million more than anticipated when procured. The community groups challenge Anaergia’s preparation of the EIS, as opposed to the County, for reasons including the County’s unwritten policy of imposing less strict oversight over projects for which they have outside entities prepare an EIS.

The groups also challenged the failure to adequately consider sea level rise predictions. Maui Tomorrow Executive Director, Albert Perez commented, “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.”

The Kahului Wastewater Facility’s precarious location was specifically called out in the State’s Sea Level Rise Adaptation Report, published in December 2017. “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.”

The proposal will result in nearly 3,130 tons per year of dried sludge and nearly 30,000 tons per year of biocrop byproduct “digestate,” but the EIS does not indicate how the County will dispose of them.

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