Problems at landfill must be fixed
The state has imposed a $2.8 million fine for violations at Waimanalo Gulch.
Violations at the Waimanalo Gulch landfill certainly won't make the task easier for the city if and when it seeks expansion of the landfill or another location to accommodate Honolulu's garbage.
The public already views landfills as undesirable and the huge fine imposed by the state Department of Health along with a laundry list of problems the department cited reinforces the perception that the city has poorly managed trash disposal.
Though a city official says the Hannemann administration will have proposals for handling wastes "soon," time is running short. The permit for Waimanalo Gulch expires in 2008 and any extensions there or for a new landfill site will require a year or more for consideration.
In its citation of the city and Waste Management of Hawaii, the company that operates the Leeward Oahu landfill, the department noted 18 violations, including "failure to cover solid waste daily," which it considers a "basic principle of landfill management."
Some of the violations were for lax record-keeping and others have been corrected, the city says, but the negligence and the stretch of problems over a two-year period are serious concerns.
Taxpayers won't foot the bill for the $2.8 million fine, the city says, but officials must comply with regulations, if not to avoid future fines, but to demonstrate that waste disposal can be managed correctly.
The landfill expansion was bitterly contested by the Leeward community in 2003 when the previous administration broke its promise to close it down. After reviews of other sites produced few options acceptable to the public, the permit was extended for five years.
City officials can expect that people will reject any attempt to locate a landfill in their backyards. The experience of Leeward residents who have had to live with one for decades and the difficulty the city has had in controlling problems there will justify their concerns.
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