Wai'anae may keep landfill after all
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
Without another place to put O'ahu's trash, the city will seek permission to operate the island's only municipal landfill for 15 years beyond a 2008 deadline to close it, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday.
The decision was revealed during a news conference at Honolulu Hale, where he said he would veto a bill passed by the City Council this month to require that the Waimanalo Gulch landfill close by mid-2008. Hannemann indicated he plans to pursue extending the life of the landfill with the state Health Department.
"Over the past year we had looked at every possible angle and option to (closing) the landfill in the near future, for it is my belief that the whole island of O'ahu should share in the responsibility of disposing of our 'opala," he said in a written statement. "This was a painful decision."
The council passed the bill to force the closing deadline by a 7-2 majority, with Barbara Marshall and Rod Tam opposed. Another 7-2 vote would override the mayor's veto.
However, Councilman Gary Okino, who voted with the majority, said he would not vote to override because he doesn't think the mayor had another choice. And the council doesn't have another solution.
"I think if we override, it's incumbent on us to say where we're going to go," Okino said. "We can't keep throwing it back to him; that's irresponsible."
Okino believes the deadline served a purpose by forcing the city to state a course on the landfill. "If he had another site, that would have been great, too," Okino said.
Councilman Todd Apo, who represents the district, and works for the developer across the street — Ko Olina — said the community would be opposed to a 15-year extension, although he can see a need for a more modest extension.
"My district is always going to oppose having a landfill," Apo said. And he thinks there's got to be a way to avoid 17 more years at that site.
"We all need to work together in coming up with a solution," he said.
The first hint that the landfill's scheduled 2008 closing date might be extended came in January when Hannemann testified before lawmakers. The mayor's announcement yesterday marked the first definitive course of action regarding the landfill since the city embarked on a series of temporary trash fixes — landfill expansions, changes in height limits and permit extensions — several years ago.
The city opened the landfill in 1989.
Wai'anae residents said they'd like to see the landfill go, but would rather it stay where it is than close and have a new landfill put in Nanakuli, which has been mentioned among possible alternate sites.
Bella Oclinaria, a Poka'i Bay resident who has lived on the Leeward Coast for 32 years, said Hannemann made a logical decision. "We don't want it further in our backyard like Nanakuli or Ma'ili," she said.
Pat Patterson, who has fought against keeping the Waimanalo Gulch landfill site open, said she only agreed with the mayor's declaration that all of O'ahu should share in the landfill stewardship.
"But 5.5 percent of the population in Wai'anae doesn't need 100 percent of the island's 'opala," she said. "I would like see the landfill at Waimanalo Gulch closed, and I'd like to see a landfill in each of our island communities."
However, Wai'anae Coast Neighborhood Board member Patty Teruya said that the board voted to oppose an earlier version of Bill 37, in part because the City Council didn't offer an alternate site. The earlier version stopped short of setting a deadline of mid-2008 to close the Waimanalo Gulch landfill but limited which materials could go to the landfill.
"I cautioned the board and the community ... again and again to leave it where it's at because if we close Waimanalo Gulch, the landfill is going to end up in our backyard in Nanakuli B," she said.
"You can't close it there and shove it in our community. So I strongly support leaving the landfill where it is until there's another site chosen — but not in Wai'anae."
Hannemann said he would have been happy to announce a closing date for the existing landfill but just doesn't have an easy replacement.
"Even if a new location were identified today, it would take more than five years to obtain the necessary permits to open a landfill there," Hannemann said in a news release.
He said the council push to close was "punting" the dicey political issue.
In 2004, the City Council adopted a resolution selecting Waimanalo Gulch as the city's "new landfill site" after May 1, 2008, Hannemann said, under pressure from the state Land Use Commission.
Among the reasons for keeping the landfill there were: 15 additional years of landfill capacity, and the fact that it is owned by the city and would be the least expensive to develop and maintain as a landfill, he said.
But Apo said the council wasn't punting this year, but attempting to set deadlines for a long-term solution.Advertiser Staff Writer Will Hoover contributed to this report.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: The Wai'anae Neighborhood Board in November voted 12-1 against an earlier version of Council Bill 37 that was vetoed this week by Mayor Mufi Hannemann. A previous version of this story indicated the vote was unanimous and based on the current bill, which would have set a deadline of mid-2008 to close the Waimanalo Gulch landfill. The earlier version of the bill stopped short of setting that closing deadline but limited which materials could go to the landfill.