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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 7, 2006

Two landfills cited for air pollution

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The federal Environmental Protection Agency this week cited two Hawai'i landfills Waimanalo Gulch on O'ahu and West Hawai'i on the Big Island for clean-air violations that could result in federal fines.

Brian Riedel, assistant regional counsel for the EPA in San Francisco, yesterday said the county governments on each island were sent the notice of violations on Tuesday, as was the private company that runs both landfills, Waste Management of Hawaii.

At Waimanalo Gulch, Riedel said EPA inspectors found that a gas collection and control system was installed seven years late in August 2005 and still does not meet federal clean-air requirements.

Riedel said the clean-air violations are cause for concern because landfills release a variety of gases. Among them, nonmethane gas contains "volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants that can result in adverse effects to the respiratory system, cancer and damage to the nervous system," he said.

Riedel said conditions have improved since the gas collection system was installed several months ago but concerns remain.

"Certainly, the situation is not life-threatening," he said. "It's too early to tell how serious the problem is."

City Councilman Todd Apo, who represents the Leeward Coast, said this latest complaint confirms some longtime community concerns about the landfill, especially coming on the heels of a large fine from the state about other environmental violations.

In February, the state Health Department fined the city and private operator Waste Management Inc. $2.8 million for Waimanalo Gulch and cited it for 18 types of environmental violations at the landfill including litter scattering, overfilling of the landfill and failing to use a soil cover.

"There are some serious problems with that landfill," Apo said.

"It isn't just a group of people making things up to get the landfill out of their backyard."

Apo said the landfill should meet federal standards. And when it falls short, it shakes the faith of the community in believing recent statements that changes in management have improved conditions, he said.

On the Big Island, Riedel said Waste Management and the County of Hawai'i violated several reporting requirements. Both landfills have been required to comply with clean-air rules since March 1996.

Riedel said the EPA wants the owners and operator to fix the problems as quickly as possible.

In a written statement, Waste Management said the company brought these procedural issues to the attention of the EPA and has since addressed them fully.

"The items discussed in the notice have had no effect on providing safe and reliable landfill services to the residents on either island," said Paul Burns, general manager of Waste Management of Hawaii.

The EPA is requiring Waste Management and the counties to get both landfills into compliance with clean-air rules. Under the Clean Air Act, they could face fines of up to $32,500 per violation, per day.

The EPA credited the state Health Department for helping investigators.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.