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Landfill future contested


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POSTED: Sunday, May 24, 2009

With the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill scheduled to close Nov. 1, the city's application to extend the life of the Waianae Coast facility for an additional 15 years is being contested on two fronts.

               

     

 

GULCH GLANCE

Facts and figures about the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill:

       

» Opened: 1989

       

» Scheduled to close: Nov. 1

       

» Size: About 108 acres

       

» Expansion: City seeks to expand by 92.5 acres, extending its use for 15 years.

       

» Capacity: Takes in 400,000 tons of waste per year, including 100,000 tons of ash from waste-to-energy H-POWER generators

       

Sources: Waste Management Inc., Star-Bulletin archives

       

A contested case already has been pending before the state Land Use Commission, and on Wednesday, the Ko Olina Community Association was allowed to challenge the city's special use permit application before the city Planning Commission.

The association is represented by state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, who both live in and represent the Leeward Coast district, where the landfill is located.

“;A contested case hearing is necessary to question the assumptions made by the city and to ask the fundamental question: Why, after promising to close the dump so many times, we're now in the position of a 15-year expansion,”; Hanabusa said.

The hearing before the Planning Commission is set for June 22.

In a statement released through the mayor's office, city Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger said the commission's decision was not surprising.

“;While the strategy of Hanabusa, KOCA, and Shimabukuro is clearly to delay the process and defer the hard decisions that need to be made, we are grateful to the commission for moving steadily towards decision making,”; Steinberger said.

Waimanalo Gulch has been among the more debated issues of Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration. The city seeks to expand Oahu's 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.

Hanabusa and other Leeward residents argue that city officials have promised for years to close the landfill and should keep their vows.

“;The fundamental question is: What alternatives do they have? What have they done,”; Hanabusa said.

The landfill was set to close a year ago, but the city sought an extension of the permit, citing cost and inability to find an alternative site.

Soon after the 18-month extension was granted, a study released by a city consulting firm found there would be no significant negative environmental impact from expanding the landfill.

Additionally, a municipal landfill still would be needed as the city continues to explore options such as recycling, shipping trash and expanding the H-Power plant, which converts waste to energy, the study said.

City Council Chairman Todd Apo, who represents Leeward constituents, also is seeking to intervene and contest the permit. A ruling on his petition is expected next month.

“;I don't want to delay this,”; Apo said. “;I want to make sure that we understand what the city's long-term plans are, and that we limit the use of the landfill to what is needed.”;