Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Landfill near full capacity

 •  Lawsuit filed over plan for expansion

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

With only several weeks of capacity remaining at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill, the city is embarking on what officials say will be its final expansion.

Public hearing

• What: Public hearing on the proposed expansion of Waimanalo Gulch Landfill

• When: 7 to 9 p.m. April 14

• Where: Kapolei Hale, conference room A, 1000 Uluohia St.

• More information: 586-4226

The 15-acre expansion will give the city five more years of storage at the landfill and give the city time to ramp up recycling programs and settle on an alternative waste disposal method to reduce dependency on landfills.

Approval of the expansion is seen as a foregone conclusion, because the city has no other alternative.

The permit still needs to be approved by the state Land Use Commission, which will meet this week, and by the state Health Department after a public hearing on April 14. The city Planning Commission approved the expansion last week.

In the meantime, the city will need to devise a plan should the landfill reach capacity before the permit is issued.

"There aren't too many options," said Steve Chang, chief of the state Health Department's Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch. "The city won't have any place to take the waste material (it collects).... We're worried that even if we got the permit out in April, we'd be looking at a potential backlog of waste."

Once the permit is approved, the city has said it would take about two weeks to get the first section of the expansion completed and ready to receive garbage.

The cost to expand the landfill will come out of the $7.7 million it costs to operate it, city officials said.

Though the city plans to close the landfill within five years, officials have started to look for another site to build a new landfill, one that will only be needed to store ash material generated as a byproduct of H-Power. The city has identified 40 locations on O'ahu as possible sites.

"There will always be a need for some kind of landfill," said city Managing Director Ben Lee. "I don't think we could ever have no landfills at all."

Leeward residents have long complained about the landfill in their back yard, pointing at the odor and litter it generates.

Though the city initially proposed the landfill expansion to last 15 years, officials compromised with the community by committing to closing it within five years.

"We actually wanted just three years because we're just so afraid they'll keep extending it," said Maeda Timson, a member of the Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board. "Aesthetically it looks terrible. We want to just get it out of there."

The landfill is near the communities of Ko Olina, Honokai Hale and Nanakuli.

"The landfill is situated in the heart of a growing city," Timson said. "We just want it out of there. I don't know how we can make that any clearer."

City Councilman Mike Gabbard (Wai'anae, 'Ewa) supports the expansion, with the condition that the landfill be permanently closed in five years.

"No extensions — not one day," said Gabbard, chairman of the public works committee. "I'd actually like to see it done earlier."

Last September, with space at Waimanalo Gulch all but gone, the Department of Health approved a permit to raise the height of the landfill by 30 feet, buying the city about eight months.

Like that action, the new expansion underscores the need to find alternative solutions to the island's mounting trash problem.

Chang said O'ahu generates about 3,000 tons of waste daily, or 6.8 pounds for every person on the island. About 2,000 of that goes to H-Power, the city's garbage-to-energy solution up to now; the remaining waste goes directly into the landfill.

The city has acquired 23 acres next to the H-Power site in Campbell Industrial Park to bring in companies to test disposal technologies. It is also considering adding a $60 million third boiler for the plant, which would allow at least two boilers running at all times. Presently, the plant has to shut down for several weeks every year for maintenance and repair, sending all municipal solid waste directly to the landfill.

"The community doesn't want (the landfill) there at all, and we understand their concerns," Lee said. "But we feel confident we've addressed all the community concerns and have multiple plans and alternatives to reduce our dependency on landfills."

Reach Catherine E. Toth at 535-8103 or ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.