DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The state Department of Health has fined the city and Waste Management Hawaii for operational deficiencies at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill. Trash was being compacted yesterday at the landfill before dirt could be piled on.
Waimanalo Gulch Landfill hit with $2.8 million fine
Citations justify complaints, say Waianae area politicians
A $2.8 million state fine for permit violations at the city's Waimanalo Gulch Landfill justifies what Waianae Coast residents say they have been complaining about all along, lawmakers contend.
"In my view it legitimizes all the concerns we've been raising over the past year -- both my office and the Council and, most importantly, the community," City Councilman Todd Apo, who represents the Waianae area, said yesterday.
"Now we find that we weren't imagining that smell, as they told us we were," said state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae). "The odor was because they did not cover sludge as it came in."
Hanabusa also questioned whether a $2.8 million fine would be enough to make the Waianae Coast landfill operator change its ways because of the profit the city makes of $30 million to $50 million a year.
A Department of Health order issued yesterday against the city and its contractor Waste Management Hawaii lists 18 violations of the operating permit for the landfill.
City Environmental Services Director Eric Takamura said yesterday that Waste Management will be responsible for the fines, as specified in its contract with the city. But he added that he believes that Waste Management will appeal the order.
Waste Management issued a statement yesterday that "items discussed in the notice have had no effect on providing safe and reliable landfill services to the residents of Oahu" and that the company "has taken significant efforts to address the issues."
The Health Department also has ordered Waste Management and the city to come into compliance with all permit requirements and to provide monthly and quarterly records of landfill operations.
Takamura said he was "a bit surprised" that the state is seeking fines for the permit violations.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration "knew there were problems with the landfill" soon after taking office in January 2005, Takamura said.
"We sat down with the Department of Health and told Waste Management to change the way they do business," Takamura said.
"Some things were easy to fix," Takamura said.
Waste Management created a litter patrol to pick up wind-blown trash, improved odor control for sewage sludge coming into the landfill and set up a system to burn off methane gas coming from the landfill, he said.
"Between January and summer, we were trying to get them to change," Takamura said. One change Waste Management made was to install new leadership at the landfill.
Takamura, the Health Department and Waste Management did not provide more detailed information yesterday about two issues: the amount of liquid removed from the bottom of the landfill by pumper trucks and taken to Waianae Wastewater Treatment Plant and how much over the permit- approved height the landfill has risen.
On April 25 a Waste Management official told City Council members that leachate was about 20 feet high at the base of the ash pit. Leachate is liquid that collects on the waterproof liner of the landfill and must be removed if it gets too deep.
Takamura said yesterday that testing since that time determined that the structural stability of the landfill is OK and that there has been no contamination of ground water.
Hanabusa said she was skeptical. "I think they (Waste Management) have been doing some very bad practices," she said. "I don't see why the city can't fire them. Do you want these people who have not performed well?"
Takamura said the city is not considering firing Waste Management.
Hanabusa, Apo and City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz noted yesterday that the Hannemann administration has not produced a comprehensive waste management strategy.
"What's the long-term plan for solid waste?" Dela Cruz asked.
Takamura said he will offer a solid-waste management strategy "soon."
The current health permit allows Waimanalo Gulch to be used until 2008. No new permit has been applied for, Hanabusa said.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Waste Management Hawaii workers showed some mitigation measures at the Waimanalo landfill yesterday, including covering a hillside with tarp to minimize erosion.
VIOLATIONS CITED BY THE STATE
According to the state, infractions at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill include
» Exceeding the landfill's allowed height.
» Allowing too much liquid (called leachate) to collect at the bottom of the landfill liner, which raised structural stability concerns.
» Failure to cover garbage daily with soil on at least 27 working days.
» Failure to submit annual operating reports on time.
» Failure to report overfilling in a timely manner.
» Failure to place soil on the HPOWER ash portion of the landfill for more than a year.
» Allowing excessive liquids in landfill sump pumps for more than four months.
» Failure to measure and maintain records of liquid levels in landfill sump pumps for more than a year.
» Failure to record the location of asbestos disposal and maintain records for over six months.
» Failure to monitor methane gas and maintain records for two years.
» Failure to comply with other conditions of the landfill's permit.
Source: State Department of Health