- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii County will begin seeking proposals for a waste-to-energy facility - by far the county’s largest public works project - next week, Mayor Billy Kenoi said.

Hilo’s landfill is expected to fill up in about five years. As a result, the county must reduce waste going to the landfill, open a new landfill in Hilo at an estimated cost of $222 million or truck East Hawaii’s garbage to the West Hawaii landfill in Puuanahulu. The last option is a politically unpalatable one that Kenoi and the County Council have taken off the table, West Hawaii Today (http://bit.ly/1lnU4Nn) reported Thursday.

If all goes as planned, a vendor for the waste-to-energy facility will be selected in January and a contract signed in April 2015.

The County Council will have the final say on the new facility and how it would be paid for.

The county came close to building a waste-to-energy incinerator in 2008 under former Mayor Harry Kim’s administration, but the council killed the plan because of concerns about its $125 million price tag.

Kenoi’s hoping the company submitting the winning proposal will front most, if not all, of the capital cost in order to make money on the operation of the facility. The mayor aims to locate the facility at the site of the Hilo landfill.

Kenoi said his office has collected numerous studies conducted on the issue over the past two decades.

“Before now, we’ve just kept kicking the can down the road,” Kenoi said. “We’re past studies. . No more studies.”

Kenoi said the administration is leaving the type of waste-reduction facility open until it learns more from the proposals. But he continued to praise Honolulu’s HPower plant, a mass-burn incinerator that also burns refuse-derived fuel.

Maui County recently selected a refuse-derived fuel facility to deal with its solid waste. The process uses heat to turn municipal solid waste, fats and oils, green waste and sewage sludge into chunks that can be burned like coal. Liquefied natural gas is created as a byproduct.

Kenoi is firm in his vow to consider only technologies that have at least a three-year track record.

“We want something proven,” he said. “We’re not going to be the guinea pigs of the Pacific.”

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com