The first hazardous site assessments began Saturday in Lahaina while the debris-removal process in Kula is expected to start soon.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began its preliminary work in Lahaina on Saturday, according to the federal agency.

The job involves assessing each burned property for household hazardous waste and creating a site map for contractors who will come in at a later date, bundle the waste burrito-style in impermeable material and prepare it for shipment to the mainland.

The hazardous items, along with material suspected of containing asbestos, will be shipped off Maui to a disposal site that has yet to be determined, said Mark Cardwell, a debris removal specialist with the corps.  

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the first site assessments for private property debris removal in Lahaina. Assessors use tablet devices to take photos, make notations, and map out affected properties, which will assist in phase two of the debris removal process. (Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

It’ll be up to the California-based contractor, ECC Constructors, to work out where the waste will ultimately go, he said.

Cardwell didn’t give a timeframe for when the first part of the corps’ cleanup work in Lahaina will be complete.

“There’s no way we can give a specific date as to when you’re going to start seeing heavy equipment in Lahaina,” Cardwell said.

Part of it will depend on when the re-entry process for residents is complete. Phase two won’t start as long as people are still visiting their burned properties.

“We’re paying close respect to them and not wanting to be doing any work while they’re conducting that. We’re working in coordination with Maui County and communicating with one another for us to work as quickly as we can while they’re doing the re-entry process,” he said.

While hazardous household items and asbestos-laden materials will be shipped off island, tons of ash from the fire will end up in a landfill in Olowalu, now that the Board of Land and Natural Resources has given its approval.

In Upcountry, the process is much further along. Heavy equipment will likely start showing up in Kula to begin removing debris within the next two weeks to 30 days, Cardwell said.

The two things the corps needs for contractors to enter a property are a signed right-of-entry from the owners and clearance from cultural monitors.

The cultural monitors are observing the cleanup and advising the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers on how to handle items of cultural or archaeological significance.

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

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