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City pursues extension of Waimanalo Gulch landfill's life

Officials will seek 15 more years to develop alternatives

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 6:48 a.m. HST, Jul 20, 2011

The city has begun the process of trying to extend the life of the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill for solid waste.

Under a 2009 ruling by the state Land Use Commission, the landfill was scheduled to close on July 31, 2012, for all material except ash and residue left over from conversion of trash to energy from the HPOWER process. The city also was required by the commission to begin the process for finding a new or supplemental landfill site other than the gulch by last November.

The city's appeal of the July 2012 closure date came to light during a meeting Tuesday of the Landfill Site Selection Committee, which has been meeting as required to set criteria and come up with a proposed location for a new landfill. The committee aims to present the city administration with its recommendations by the end of the year.

The Department of Environmental Services, which oversees the landfill, had previously testified to the Land Use Commission that the siting and planning process would take at least six years and that the department would likely need to revisit the issue and appeal if the date remained firm.

Critics, led by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, at the time the state senator for the district that contained the landfill, had said they also expected the city to continually try to extend the date of the landfill's closure, citing broken promises dating to the administration of Jeremy Harris.

The city says the landfill is needed for at least an additional 15 years while alternative technologies are developed for dealing with Oahu's trash.

Since the 2009 decision, the city has completed an expansion at Waimanalo Gulch to 200 acres from 96 acres, adding that the greater size would accommodate the additional 15 years. The expansion was approved by the Land Use Commission.

"It is therefore in the public interest to use (Waimanalo Gulch), the only permitted (municipal solid waste) landfill on Oahu, to capacity: this ensures maximum utility of our island's finite land resources and allows (the city) to properly manage the MSW of the City and County of Honolulu so as to protect the public health and safety of Oahu's residents and visitors," the appeal states. "If the landfill is forced to cease accepting MSW for disposal on July 31, 2012 … there will be no viable options to meet Oahu's solid waste management needs."

The appeal was filed June 28 with the Department of Planning and Permitting. If approved there it then would go to the city Planning Commission and then back to the state Land Use Commission for approval.

In 2009 the state Land Use Commission went against the recommendation of the city Planning Commission, which approved an extension of the landfill's operating permit with no time deadline and the condition that the city begin the process of selecting a new site within a year.

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