DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Waianae resident James Manaku testified in favor of a proposed extension of the permit to operate the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill. yesterday during a city Planning Commission meeting at Mission Memorial Auditorium.
Landfill opponents get chance to contest plan
Challengers to an extension plan will offer new information
Ko Olina residents will get a chance to challenge the city administration's request to keep Waimanalo Gulch Landfill open beyond May.
In a meeting yesterday at the Mission Memorial Auditorium next to Honolulu Hale, the eight-member Planning Commission unanimously granted two petitions to allow the Ko Olina Community Association and Sen. Colleen Hanabusa to present information and question city officials on the landfill at a hearing next month.
This is seen as a small victory for residents in the area who want the island's only landfill closed, since they will have the opportunity to make their arguments, too. Residents complained yesterday about the landfill's smell, scattered plastic bags and potholes caused by trash trucks.
"I'm very pleased with the decision," said Hanabusa, a representative of the area and a longtime vocal landfill opponent. "I had thought that they were going to probably rubber-stamp what the city Department (of Environment Services) wanted, especially given the time frame of it being in the 12th hour to do this."
The city wants to extend its permit ending on May 1 for an additional two years or until the landfill reaches its capacity. If the Planning Commission had denied the petitions, the city would have presented its case to the panel without any outside questioning.
Eric Takamura, director of the city environmental services, said the city will present information that shows it had searched for an alternative site and that there is no place else for the island's trash to go.
Waimanalo Gulch opened in 1989, and the last permit extension was granted in 2003 with the promise by the then-city administration that the landfill would be closed in 2008. When Mayor Mufi Hannemann took office in 2005, he had a committee search for alternative sites but concluded Waimanalo was the best option.
Hanabusa called the study "fundamentally flawed" and plans on challenging its methods and criteria.
The City Council chose to keep Waimanalo as the city's landfill in a 2004 decision. However, that was with the thinking the city would find other ways to dispose of waste by the time it was set to close in 2008, said City Councilman Todd Apo.
Apo, who represents the area and also works for Ko Olina Resort, said the city has not adequately searched for opportunities to shut down the landfill, including shipping trash or using advanced technology.
A draft of the city's 25-year integrated solid-waste plan, due 11 months ago, is expected to be released this month. In the draft, the city plans to request next year for bids on shipping 100,000 tons of trash annually until a second waste-to-energy plant is built, which could take five years, said City Councilman Gary Okino.
The Planning Commission is considering holding the next hearing in Kapolei, closer to the residents. If it grants the city's extension, the decision goes to the state Land Use Commission, the final decision maker.