Critics pan city's push to extend life of landfill


POSTED: Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Facing a Nov. 1 deadline to close the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, city officials argued for extending the life of the facility for another 15 years as part of an overall strategy for dealing with the island's solid waste.

The contested case hearing on extending the city's special-use permit for the Waianae Coast landfill began yesterday with one member of the Planning Commission repeating criticism that the city Department of Environmental Services lacked foresight in applying for the permit.

Commissioner Beadie Dawson said the department's lateness in applying left the commission with few options.

“;It's like not having a choice—we either make a decision or the city shuts down,”; she said. “;We're under the gun. It's like a shotgun marriage.”;

Commissioners levied similar criticism a year ago when the department sought to continue the use of the landfill past a May 2008 deadline. The deadline ultimately was extended to Nov. 1 of this year.

The hearing before the planning commission continues tomorrow.

Colleen Hanabusa, representing the Ko Olina Community Association, is contesting the permit application, saying the city has failed in keeping repeated promises to close the landfill.

“;We are still hearing the same mantra that we need a landfill, there is no other place, we need to expand Waimanalo Gulch,”; said Hanabusa, president of the state Senate. “;The city needs to be kept to its word.”;

City officials argue the landfill will be needed for the next 15 years as they study and develop alternatives such as adding another boiler to the HPOWER plant that converts trash to energy and expanding curbside recycling islandwide.

Brian Takeda, a project manager with consultant R.M. Towill Corp., was called to testify: “;There isn't a single alternative that will solve the matter of refuse in Honolulu. It's going to be a combination of these sources.”;

R.M. Towill completed the environmental impact statement that indicated there would be no significant negative impact to extending the life of the landfill.

“;Whatever capacity remains in Waimanalo Gulch should be used to its fullest ... so it can forestall the need to having to put in another backup site,”; Takeda said.

Alternative sites were examined but ultimately discarded for various reasons, including the presence of water resources and cultural artifacts, Takeda said.

Takeda faced roughly six hours of questioning during the first day of the contested case hearing, which is similar to a court proceeding.

The final decision on the permit rests with the state Land Use Commission, which will use the record of testimony created by the contested case hearing in making its decision.