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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, January 31, 2003

O'ahu landfill options present hard choices

The City Council is kidding itself by holding out hope that its landfill headaches might be solved by building a new landfill site over drinking water aquifers.

Forget it.

No one is in a position to guarantee that a landfill built over the Pearl Harbor aquifer — Oahu's largest water resource — wouldn't sooner or later leach into the water supply.

The next bit of wishful thinking the council might be tempted by is to suppose that modern technology — laser arcs and the like — can save the city from opening a new landfill site. Those technologies — and a doubling of the present H-Power facility — should be pursued with all due diligence to reduce the landfill burden.

In the unlikely event that those technologies prove so efficient that new landfill sites are unneeded, then we all can be pleasantly surprised.

But for the time being it's prudent to plan for the worst-case scenario, not a situation slightly better than we dare hope for.

In several ways, the city's planned expansion of the existing Waimînalo Gulch site is unfair. First, it's already an eyesore visible to everyone who visits the Leeward Coast, including the Ko Olina resort. Second, Leeward residents have been saddled with the sole burden of absorbing the island's 'opala, along with the odor and the blowing detritus, long enough.

Of the eight potential sites, not including Waimanalo Gulch, that are not over drinking water sources, one that stands out for serious consideration is the Ameron quarry above Kailua. Once a mountain, it has been reduced to a large hole in the ground — a hole lined with rock. With state-of-the-art methods, the quarry site could be rebuilt with landfill and landscaped to a semblance of its original appearance.

The council is under serious political pressure from people who don't want a landfill in their back yard. Dealing with that kind of pressure is part of the council member's job description. Putting a new dump in Kailua will be at least as unpopular as the Waimanalo Gulch site, but if it's the best site for objective reasons, that's where it should go.