Lava Update, 11/12/2014: Transfer Station Inundation Could Continue for Days

Lava burned its way further into the former Pahoa transfer, recycling and reuse center today, though as of late afternoon, the center’s buildings hadn’t been hit yet. Hawaii Volcano Observatory noted that a small  tongue of lava had broken in on lower  side of the truck driveway that circled the buildings, and that “This road is quite a bit lower than the transfer station buildings, and it will likely take a few days for it to fill up, if the breakout remains active.”

“So far damage is just the fingers of lava that have come down sides and burnt some asphalt. Well, that and the fence and drainage ditch outside the fence which is now filled with lava. So  far no damage to the buildings at [the] transfer station. Lava is like watching slow molasses and feels like Chinese water torture,” Environmental Management Department head Bobby Jean  Leithead Todd told the Chronicle.

At 4:45 p.m., Civil Defense reported that a lobe of lava was burning asphalt in the center’s “rear driveway area,” and that all other smoke from active lava today was due to burning vegetation.   The current flows pose no immediate threat to residents, but the smoke might for those with sensitivity or respiratory conditions.   Civil Defense described smoke conditions as “moderate to heavy.”

In addition to the lava at the transfer station, another lobe is active in the area of the cemetery and a third is pushing down to about 390 yards  upslope of Apa`a Street.  Lava is also encroaching further on the cemetery itself, approaching “right up to the edge” of a previously untouched shelter there, according to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (See photos below).

According to Leithead Todd, the county was evaluating a number of possible sites for a replacement for the transfer station/recycling/reuse center, which opened in 2011 at a cost of $3,907,494, but the final site selection is being delayed by uncertainty about where, exactly, the lava will go. “Additionally construction of a permanent site and its selection would require at a minimum an EA and possibly a full-blown EIS ,which would need to evaluate the pros and cons of different sites before selection of a site could occur,’ she said.

–Alan McNarie


Above: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s map of the lava flow as of 7 a.m., this morning.  In addition to the flows near the transfer station and the cemetery, note the large finger that’s extending relatively rapidly mauka of  Apa`a Street.

Below: photos from the HVO Web site showing lava activity at the transfer station, (below, top) seen from the east-northeast, and the cemetery (bottom): note the green-roofed shelter building, which is threatened by an inflating ridge of lava.




7 replies
  1. Mike Purvis
    Mike Purvis says:

    $3.9 million, wow I didn’t realize it was that much.

    That’s one of my biggest concerns of the area.
    The fact that State and County investments in Puna may be stalled or avoided for a very, very long time.

    Puna was about to expand in very big ways just as this happened. Heartbreaking.

  2. Geoff Shaw
    Geoff Shaw says:

    Hopefully the maps with the thin blue lines will be part of the discussion for the new site. Once the lava crosses the highway there needs to be a community discussion about the future of SE Puna because these decisions have to involve everyone, not just county officials. I would suggest they consider buildings that can be taken down and moved for the next site. Concerning what Mike said we should consider ourselves somewhat lucky that Pele played her hand before more construction was started. There is already a police and fire station and a transfer station that are located in areas that seem to be obsolete and they were trying to build a new medical center and shopping center in the same general area. Trying to plan in an area that is influenced by an active volcano is a challenge but it can be done. Think modular and flexible at least.

  3. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    The metal structures of the transfer station are bolted to the concrete footings.
    Why can’t they be unbolted and removed for relocation??
    Wow, 3.9 million dollars!
    Even if only half of that cost is salvaged by moving the structures, that’s close to $2,000,000 saved.
    Maybe the National Guard could get out their wrenches and a crane, instead of standing around.

  4. Sara Steiner
    Sara Steiner says:

    They won’t do that, or they would have done it way before now. Yep, we like to spend choke money out here in lava zone one and two (all of Hi County actually), padding the pockets of contractors at the expense of the taxpayers. A good start would be to open the existing Kalapana dump everyday, and there is plenty of flatland on highway 130… to set up a better site. As it is now, I can barely muscle a trashcan up into those dumpsters, people are getting turned away daily, and it seems real weird to me to bring my stinky trash into the middle of Pahoa…

  5. Sara Steiner
    Sara Steiner says:

    And they have suspended all our rights anyway, including the laws that protect the aina, so to cry about doing an EIS is slightly strange…

    We do not need “permanent” type structures out here when this entire part of the island gets covered with lava every few hundred years, we need alternative lava zone type buildings.

  6. hangloose
    hangloose says:

    Can’t take building apart beforehand, county has it insured and it needs to be declared a total loss. The transfer station is the first major community loss. The interim location is terrible and that should have been better thought out months ago. There is county property north of the flow, the interim location was with the idea it was supportive of the side that is being cut off.

  7. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Dearest Alan – I was assuming the transfer metal buildings would be moved.
    What do you think?
    Who made the decision to sacrifice almost new metal structures?
    Millions of dollars of zinc plated steel structures?
    Easily unbolted.
    Should we call Zendo and Illigan?
    Millions of dollars!
    Who do we ask?

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