Maui County officials select final disposal site for debris from Lahaina wildfire

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii officials plan to send debris and ash from the August wildfire that destroyed Lahaina town to Maui’s central landfill.

Maui County officials said Wednesday that they picked the permanent disposal site in Kahului over two others that are closer to Lahaina, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century killed 101 people and destroyed 3,000 properties, leaving behind burned cars, charred beams and toxic ash. Officials estimate the debris will fill 400,000 truckloads, which is roughly enough to cover five football fields five stories high.

Shayne Agawa, director of the county’s Department of Environmental Management, said officials evaluated potential sites for months and studied the results of two surveys that received 2,757 responses.

The Central Maui Landfill has the advantage of being far from populated areas and officials don’t believe material deposited there will contaminate drinking water supplies.

The landfill will have to expand to accommodate the new debris. It’s also 26 miles (42 kilometers) from Lahaina and the trucks making the trip are expected to add to traffic. Agawa said officials plan to use old sugar cane plantation roads for part of the trip to limit this effect.

The two other finalist sites were north of Lahaina, in the Wahikuli area and at Crater Village. The Wahikuli site is near residential areas and the coastline, while using the Crater Village site could have interfered with the drinking water.

Workers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have already started removing debris and taking it to a temporary disposal site 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of Lahaina, in Olowalu.

Environmentalists raised concerns about storing debris there long-term, saying doing so could harm offshore coral reefs.

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