Leeward landfill's use should be extended
Mayor Hannemann has vetoed a City Council bill that would require the city to close its principal landfill in Leeward Oahu in 2008.
LACKING any alternative for the destination of rubbish now dumped at the Waimanalo Gulch landfill on Leeward Oahu, Mayor Hannemann had no choice but to veto a proposal
that it be shut down in little more than two years. The veto should stand, and the emphasis should be on recycling as much rubbish as possible to reduce the need for the landfill.
The City Council agreed more than a year ago to keep using the landfill next to the Hawaiian Electric power station and mauka of Ko Olina Resort, finding four other locations to be unsuitable or unavailable. Waimanalo Gulch is the island's primary landfill; the only other landfill, nearby up the coast at Nanakuli, is limited to construction and demolition waste.
One of the main reasons given to keep Waimanalo Gulch functioning beyond May 1, 2008, the expiration of the city's special use permit from the state Land Use Commission, was its 15 additional years of landfill capacity. That remains a consideration.
The Council reversed its December 2004 decision by adopting a bill to require that the city close the landfill by the expiration date, without naming a replacement site. "Even if a new location were identified today," Hannemann explained, "it would take more than five years to obtain the necessary permits to open a landfill there."
Another important reason for maintaining Waimanalo Gulch as a landfill is its ownership by the city. Acquiring another site would add to the soaring property-tax burden of Oahu's homeowners.
Hannemann pointed out that shipping the island's refuse out of state would be "prohibitively expensive and would face tremendous regulatory obstacles." New technologies for disposing refuse without the need of a landfill appear to be at the pipe-dream stage.
Five of eight sites studied as possible alternatives are on the Waianae Coast, and the other three, in Windward Oahu, are unavailable. Several Leeward residents attending Hannemann's veto announcement said they would rather keep the known landfill than open a new one along their coast.
The administration's willingness to expand curbside recycling will be a good step in reducing the rubbish now taken to the landfill. As much as 125,000 tons of green waste now taken to landfills instead will be turned into mulch and compost. Inclusion of papers, glass and plastics in curbside recycling during the next few years should provide additional relief from landfills.
Meanwhile, the city should find ways to improve landscaping, schedule garbage trucks to avoid traffic congestion and fence the area to reduce dust. Hannemann said Waste Management of Hawaii, which operates the landfill, is working to improve grading and reduce litter, groundwater contamination and odors.