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Residents want medical waste rules toughened

By Gary T. Kubota

LAST UPDATED: 3:48 a.m. HST, Jan 25, 2011

Stricter rules for medical waste disposal is the way to keep syringes and vials out of coastal waters, Leeward Oahu residents who attended a hearing about the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill debris spill said yesterday.

Several people said they were alarmed at the presence of medical waste on their beaches arising from storm runoff, which Mayor Peter Carlisle said amounted to about 200 million gallons of discharge.

Beverly Munson, who lives within a few hundred yards of the landfill, said government officials need to develop better standards for medical waste disposal.

Munson, a retired hospital administrator, said from what she has observed, the syringes came with vials that listed names of patients, indicating they came from medical laboratories.

Munson said other municipalities are using technology to eliminate the need for landfills.

"My expectation is that people need to do their job and get this problem solved," she said.

More than 50 people attended a joint informational meeting of two City Council committees yesterday to find out how to keep landfill waste from polluting coastal waters again.

Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, chairwoman of the Committee on Safety, Economic Development and Government Affairs, said she was worried about the safety and well-being of residents and visitors.

"What happened should never have occurred and should never happen again," she said.

Some residents like Munson criticized the city for continuing to operate a landfill at Waimanalo Gulch when it was scheduled to close a number of years ago. The city is appealing a state Land Use Commission decision to shut down the dumping of solid waste at the landfill by July 31, 2012.

The landfill, closed since Jan. 12, is scheduled to reopen Thursday. Some sewage treatment plants and HPOWER, the city's energy-to-waste facility, have been forced to keep sludge and ash at their respective facilities.

"We're not out of the crisis," Carlisle said.

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