STAR-BULLETIN / MARCH 2008
A bulldozer crushes debris at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill for disposal. The city is hoping to expand the 107.5-acre landfill by 92.5 acres.
Landfill passes environmental impact test
Critics are unhappy but not surprised by the city's consultant
STORY SUMMARY »
Expanding Oahu's only landfill to nearly double its current size poses no major environmental threats, a study concludes, though some community members say the city will face stiff opposition to keeping the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill open for 15 more years.
The city also decided to move three upright stones, native Hawaiian artifacts believed to be of cultural significance, from their original location since they interfered with the expansion. The stones will be returned to their original spots after the landfill closes.
The public has until July 7 to comment on the draft environmental impact statement.
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A long-awaited study found no significant environmental impact in enlarging the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill, a conclusion welcomed by city officials but described as predictable and frustrating by opponents.
"It is good news for the city," said Ken Shimizu, deputy director of the city Department of Environmental Services. "But there's a long more way to go as we try to expand the landfill for another 15 years."
The draft environmental impact statement, released last week by city consultant R.M. Towill Corp., proposes to keep Waimanalo Gulch Landfill on the Leeward Coast open for 15 more years since there are no other immediate alternatives to dispose of Oahu's waste. The city is looking to ship its trash to the mainland and is expanding its plant that converts waste to energy, but these alternatives still would require a municipal landfill, the study says.
The city is proposing to expand its only landfill, which is 107.5 acres, by 92.5 acres, a project that would take 10 years to complete at a cost of $86 million.
The landfill has been one of the most debated issues during Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration with many Leeward Coast residents angered that the city hadn't closed the landfill this month as promised by the previous administration. Earlier this year, the state Land Use Commission granted the city an extension of its permit until November 2009 after several contested hearings.
Some community members say there could be a similar battle as the city seeks the expansion.
"It becomes frustrating when you feel like your voice really doesn't matter," said Shad Kane, a Kapolei resident and former Kapolei Neighborhood Board member. "It gets to a point where you feel the community meetings don't matter."
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, a Ko Olina resident and longtime critic of the landfill, has not read the study in detail but said she wasn't surprised at its conclusions. "It is, of course, anticipated the city that wants to keep expanding the landfill is going to write an EIS that says there's no adverse environmental impact," Hanabusa said. "That doesn't necessarily make it correct."
Russell Nanod, spokesman for the landfill's operators, Waste Management of Hawaii, said the more-than-1,000-page report is the result of a long, thorough process.
The report was expected to be released last year, but was delayed because archaeologists had found upright stones they believed to be native Hawaiian artifacts of cultural significance — but the report says their significance remains unclear even after the city consulted experts.
The city has decided to move the stones away from its construction area and into the area of the landfill called "Battery Arizona," the report says, and after the landfill is closed, the city will move the stones back to their original location.
Archaeologists from the state Historic Preservation Division could not be reached yesterday. Kane, who is also a member of the Kapolei Hawaiian Civic Club, said he understands the need to move the stones but was unhappy with the decision.
A draft environmental report outlines steps the city should take to mitigate problems with expansion of the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill including:
» Odor: All truck loads must be covered with a tarp. Sewage sludge once dumped at the landfill now undergoes treatment at Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. On-site odor neutralizing and collecting systems such as aerosol sprayers would reduce the smell.
» Air quality: During construction, water will be sprayed on the surface and dust screens will be installed to stop litter from flying into the community.
» Noise: Bulldozers and trucks might cause loud noise during construction, however, they will be equipped with mufflers or other devices to reduce noise. Rock crushing might also be a nuisance though, since the location is about a half-mile away from Farrington Highway.
» Water contamination: Once a major concern, water that collects at the bottom of the landfill called "leachate" is monitored and removed regularly. A collection system with thick piping and wells reduces the risk of the leachate from entering the ground water.
» Traffic: No increase in traffic is anticipated with the expansion, though the report suggests installing a traffic signal on Farrington Highway.
The public has until July 7 to comment on a draft environmental impact statement on a 15-year expansion of Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.
The report may be viewed at the Hawaii State Library as well as regional libraries, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Hamilton Library, the Legislative Reference Bureau in the state Capitol and at the city Department of Customer Services in Honolulu Hale.
Comments should be sent to City and County of Honolulu, Department of Environmental Services, 1000 Uluohia St., Suite 308, Kapolei 96707.
Copies should be sent to Director, Office of Environmental Quality Control, 235 S. Beretania St, Suite 702, Honolulu 96813; and to R.M. Towill Corp., 2024 N. King St., Suite 200, Honolulu 96819.