Tuesday, September 1, 2015         

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Dump reopening delayed

The landfill will remain shut another week for repair work

By Gary T. Kubota


With cast-off household items piling up on curbsides, Oahu's landfill will remain closed yet another week, city officials announced yesterday.

The original schedule had the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill reopening today.

The dump has been closed for two weeks as workers make repairs from a storm that led to the release of millions of gallons of contaminated water containing debris and medical waste.

Muddy water and rubbish flowed into the ocean, then washed up on beaches over a number of days, alarming residents along the Waianae Coast.

The city late yesterday delayed the dump's reopening until Wednesday.

"We ask for ... patience," said Markus Owens, spokesman for the city's Department of Environmental Services.

The work is taking longer than expected, Owens said.

That means bulky-item pickup is also delayed, creating more curbside eyesores. Owens said collecting items such as sofas and carpets won't resume until Wednesday.

However, landfill operator Waste Management of Hawaii Inc. plans to begin taking in waste for critical disposal tomorrow, including sewage sludge that has been accumulating at waste treatment plants.

Owens said workers repaired the east side of the landfill damaged during a Jan. 13 storm but still need to submit an engineering report to state and federal officials.

"They have worked as quickly as possible," he said.

The city closed the landfill on Jan. 12 in anticipation of the storm, which brought 11 inches of rain to parts of Oahu over two days.

State health officials are investigating why storm water with medical waste and other debris washed through the landfill into the ocean, polluting miles of West Oahu shoreline.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has told Waste Management to develop a plan within a week to prevent landfill debris from getting into the ocean.

Waste Management has about 20 days to build a storm-water diversion structure above the landfill cell that was flooded — or face escalating fines that could amount to thousands of dollars a day.

The state has penalized Waste Management a couple of times in the past several years — the latest a $424,000 fine in 2010 after the Health Department said the company failed to properly construct a berm to stabilize the landfill's western wall.

State officials said a berm constructed in May 2007 used a liner different from what previously had been used. The change did not create a safety hazard but was a serious infraction officials only learned about after reviewing final quality assurance reports in February 2010.

In 2007, Waste Management and the city agreed to pay $1.5 million in a settlement of solid waste violations after the state charged them for 18 violations, including failing to cover solid waste daily and overfilling areas with municipal solid waste.

Although some West Oahu residents want the landfill out of their community, the city is seeking to extend the landfill's use beyond a July 31, 2012, deadline set by the state Land Use Commission.

Meanwhile, Mayor Peter Carlisle has appointed an advisory committee to recommend alternative landfill sites.


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