Hazardous materials have been removed from Lahaina and Upcountry sites nearly three months after the fires.

Environmental Protection Agency employees and contractors have finished removing household hazardous material from properties destroyed or damaged in the Aug. 8 wildfires on Maui.

They have also completed removing lithium-ion batteries from vehicles and powerwalls, according to an EPA news release Thursday.

While this cleanup phase is over, EPA says it will continue to assist Maui County with issues related to fire-damaged underground water pipes and sewer lines as well as above-ground pumping stations.

Lahaina fire - EPA Hazmat Operations & Transfer Station, August 31, 2023, photographs. (Courtesy of the DLNR)
EPA says it has finished removing hazardous materials from Maui properties affected by the Aug. 8 wildfires. (Courtesy: DLNR/2023)

The work of removing hazardous household material involved some 1,374 residential homes and 72 commercial properties in Lahaina, Kula and Olinda.

The federal agency shipped 13 containers of hazardous material off island.

Much of the electronics and antifreeze was shipped to storage and recycling facilities in Oregon. Other waste, including paints, acids and flammable and combustible liquids, went to New Mexico. Asbestos, lead, pesticides, contaminated debris and brine liquid got sent to Idaho. Lithium-ion and other batteries were destined to Nevada, according to EPA spokesman Rusty Harris-Bishop.

Chris Myers is the EPA’s incident commander on Maui responding to the Aug. 8 wildfire in Lahaina. (Paula Dobbyn/Civil Beat/2023)

EPA workers and contractors removed batteries from 94 electric and hybrid vehicles and decommissioned 274 powerwalls in homes and businesses.

The agency developed “cutting-edge procedures” to de-energize and decommission the batteries for safe shipment off island.

Two containers with more than 30 tons of decommissioned battery material were filled and shipped.

Besides assisting with infrastructure repair, EPA’s continued work on Maui will include planning for the “sustainable recovery in Lahaina and the fire-impacted areas.”

“The deadly wildfires on Maui caused catastrophic damage and destruction to homes, businesses, and significant cultural and historic resources,” said EPA Incident Commander Chris Myers in a release. “EPA has been honored to join other federal agencies, the State of Hawaii, the County of Maui, local organizations, and Maui residents and elders to help begin the long road to recovery.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects to begin ash and debris removal in Lahaina sometime in January, once a temporary debris storage site is ready to accept the estimated 350,000 cubic yards of material to be collected from the burned parcels.

The Army Corps began construction on the temporary site in Olowalu on Monday after receiving county approval, according to spokesperson Shannon Bauer. The debris will be encapsulated and stored “burrito” style in plastic, she said, then placed in a lined cell and covered with dirt at the end of each day.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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