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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 17, 2003

Options whittled to five for O'ahu's next landfill

 •  Map: Proposed sites for landfill use

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

The location of O'ahu's next landfill has been narrowed to five potential sites, including Ameron Kapa'a Quarry in Kailua and four sites on the Wai'anae Coast — among them, the present Waimanalo Gulch landfill in Kahe Valley that city officials have said would close in five years.

The other potential sites selected are Makaiwa Gulch, a location referred to as Nanakuli B and a quarry in Ma'ili.

Although the list is preliminary, the city and the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Landfill Siting are up against deadlines to name potential sites by Dec. 1 and choose one by June or stand to lose the state permit that extended the use of Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill through 2008.

A draft report containing the criteria and reasoning behind the choices is expected to be presented at a meeting Friday of the 16-member committee.

While the city is working to ramp up recycling and other alternate waste disposal methods to reduce dependency on landfills, there always will be a need for one, officials have said.

Selection of a new landfill site is integral to the city's waste-disposal strategy for the next 10 to 15 years. And with any landfill potentially affecting the surrounding area for even longer, the short list of possible new sites is certain to generate strong reaction.

That's particularly true in Kailua and on the Wai'anae Coast, where residents and officials feel they have done their part by hosting O'ahu's last two landfills.

"Nobody wants it in their back yard," said Patty Teruya, a member of the Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board.

The Mayor's Advisory Committee on Landfill Siting began with a list of 44 potential sites for the next landfill. All but eight sites were eliminated because of restrictions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Health or the Board of Water Supply.

The final five sites emerged from a "blind" selection process in which committee members did not know the locations and worked from general descriptions only. Thirty-two criteria were considered to rank them.

The criteria included displacement of residences and businesses; distance from the nearest residence, school or business; wind direction; proximity to parks and recreational facilities; visibility; wetlands; flora and fauna habitat; and site aesthetics.

Members of the committee who were contacted declined to comment about the choices until the final draft report is produced, but they confirmed the five locations. All agreed that the process — based on gaining a consensus from all 16 members, who include residents from Kailua and Wai'anae, government officials, experts in health and land use, educators and community activists — was difficult.

Once the report is finalized, the city Department of Environmental Services will review the list and forward it to the mayor and then the City Council by the Dec. 1 deadline, said Carol Costa, city spokeswoman. Costa said environmental impact statements may be done on several of the sites.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to the general public is the inclusion of Waimanalo Gulch Landfill on the list.

Wai'anae Coast residents had demanded that the Waimanalo Gulch site be closed, citing problems with odor, litter and pests from the landfill, which is close to the communities of Honokai Hale, Nanakuli and upscale Ko Olina.

Earlier this year, with room at the landfill running out and no other option available, the city was granted approval for a five-year expansion at Waimanalo Gulch.

Officials assured Leeward residents that the extension would be the last and that the landfill would close at the end of those five years. Meanwhile, the landfill's operator noted that it had at least 25 years of potential capacity remaining.

Some residents already see the inevitability of a landfill and rather than fighting it are calling for compensation to the community that has to host it.

"I would support the landfill back in my community if the tipping fee came to our community for improvements," said Teruya. "At least we would have something in return."

The tipping fee is money paid by commercial haulers and government agencies to the landfill's operator for dumping there.

Teruya said the community would be accepting trash from the whole island, so the community should be compensated.

Kailua resident James Kwong agreed. Kailua closed its last landfill in 1997, but residents say the decades of use have contributed to a mind set in which people still think of the area as a dump and leave thousands of pounds of trash there every year.

If Kailua again gets a landfill, money should be given to the community for improvements and beautification as part of the cost of having a facility that takes everybody's trash, said Kwong, a Kailua resident for 15 years.

The city also must fully finance the project, including bringing roads up to standard and maintaining them, he said.

"As an engineer I know it has to be put somewhere," Kwong said. "If it's in the same location (Kapa'a Quarry), then this time around, they need enough operating and maintenance budget."

City Councilman Mike Gabbard, whose office also confirmed the sites, said any community willing to accept a landfill should be compensated with impact money for improvements, and he is working on a proposal to that effect.

"It's not a panacea, but it is a start toward equity in asking our communities to 'host' public facilities such as landfills, sewage treatment plants and prisons," Gabbard said.

Not everyone was so open-minded. Tim Scalzone of Kailua said he doesn't trust government to implement sufficient measures to make the Kapa'a Quarry site acceptable, citing, for example, the potential leakage of toxic material into Kawainui Marsh downstream.

Scalzone also said the Wai'anae Coast should not have to continue to suffer because greater Honolulu has too much trash.

"I suggest the next landfill be placed in Niu Valley or above the wealthy East O'ahu suburbs and see what those people think," he said.

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