City needs deadline to get moving on garbage
The city Planning Commission will decide tomorrow whether to support the Hannemann administration's request to keep open the Waimanalo Gulch landfill.
The notion that city leaders have dallied in setting alternatives to waste disposal to compel continuing operations at Oahu's sole landfill site doesn't hold up, even though skeptics would suggest it to explain the dilatory, zigzagging pace at which the administration and the City Council have moved.
The political sensitivity of landfill sites and expensive methods for getting rid of garbage are reasons enough to put off decisions for another day. Nonetheless, procrastination has brought the city to a crisis point on rubbish.
In less than five months, the permit for the Waimanalo Gulch landfill will expire, and Oahu's trash could end up with no place to go.
At present no disposal options are in place. Plans to ship loads of island garbage to the continent haven't yet been arranged, nor have the costs of such an undertaking been firmly determined. Another plan to build a waste-to-energy plant like the HPOWER facility remains years away from realization.
Neither of these plans is new. They had been discussed long before 2003 when Mayor Jeremy Harris kicked the garbage can down the road, persuading the state Land Use Commission to approve keeping Waimanalo Gulch operating for another five years.
They were brought up again a year later when the then-Council -- eight of whom still hold seats -- voted to maintain Waimanalo as the landfill past 2008, having been unable to select another disposal site in a controversy that had voters across Oahu up in arms.
The ideas were talked over further when the Council reversed itself in 2006, approving a measure to close the landfill this year, a bill Mayor Mufi Hannemann vetoed. Meanwhile, the city's curbside recycling is still a small pilot project in only two communities.
With the permit expiring May 1, the pressure is on for the city Planning Commission to sustain Hannemann's request to extend the landfill operations another two years despite the objections of the Leeward community. But even if the city panel goes along, the administration will have to win over the state commission, which has warned it has little patience with the city's irresolution.
That said, unless both agencies allow the landfill operations to continue, Oahu will have no place to bury the 300,000 tons of trash and nearly 170,000 tons of ash and remnants from HPOWER generated each year. However, approval should be tied to firm deadlines and mandates for city leaders to quit talking about trash, find better ways to get rid of it and lessen the quantity produced on the island.