Environmental Protection Agency Settles with Honolulu – County to Pay Nearly $17 Million

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with the City and County of Honolulu to resolve air violations at its closed Kapaa Landfill in Kailua, Oahu by agreeing to pay nearly $17 million—$16.1 million solar power system and a penalty of $875,000.

EPA LOGOThis environmental project involves the installation of photovoltaic arrays on more than 250,000 square feet of buildings and open space area at the city’s waste-to-energy H-POWER facility by 2020.

Because decomposing refuse in a large landfill generates methane and hazardous air pollutants, EPA, under the authority of the federal Clean Air Act, requires a system to collect and control the gases. The city failed to install and operate the gas collection and control system by its deadline in 2002. The gas collection and control system at the landfill was not in place until April 2013, and is currently operational.

“Air emissions from a closed landfill are toxic, and can contribute to global warming,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “If the proper systems had been in place at the landfill, over 343,000 tons of methane, and 6,800 tons of hazardous air pollutants and volatile organics would not have escaped to the atmosphere.”

Honolulu is the owner/operator of the 215-acre landfill, which also includes the smaller adjacent Kalaheo Landfill. The landfill first received solid waste in 1969 and closed in May 1997. From 1990 to 2002, Gas Recovery Systems, Inc. installed and operated a gas collection system and turbine on behalf of the city for the generation of electric energy. GRS ceased operation of the gas turbine due to its failure in 2002.

Effective gas controls at a landfill reduce the release of hazardous gases such as benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, ethylene dichloride, perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride and vinylidene chloride. Many air pollutants identified in landfill gas are either known or suspected carcinogens. Air emissions of methane from landfills can also contribute to global methane levels, a greenhouse gas with about 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

“This settlement holds Honolulu accountable for past failures to collect and control toxic gases and greenhouse gas emissions from the Kapaa Landfill, but it also lays the foundation for better environmental stewardship in the future,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Residents who call Oahu home will realize the benefits of this agreement – which includes clean solar power production and reduced reliance on fossil fuels – for many years to come.”

The solar panels will be installed at the City’s H-POWER (Honolulu Program of Waste Energy Recovery) facility in Campbell Industrial Park. The new solar panels will have a capacity of 3.1 megawatts and will generate over 5.0 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power 800 Oahu households on average. This action will lead to less reliance on fossil fuels on Oahu.

Today’s proposed Clean Air Act consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court in Hawaii, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval, and is now available for review at: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

For more information about Clean Air Act landfill regulations, please visit the EPA’s web site at:
http://www.epa.gov/outreach/lmop/faq/landfill-gas.html.

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