Nearly full landfill
needs OK to
keep running

City officials say the dump
could reach its limit within 3 months

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The city's only landfill will reach its legal limit within three months and needs state Health Department permission to continue operating and to stave off daily fines.

That's because the city's long-range plan to expand the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill, on the Leeward Coast, is behind schedule and will take a few months to be approved.

Art Meanwhile, an unusually high number of shut-down days over the last two years at HPOWER, the city's waste-to-energy plant, has shifted loads to the landfill and sped up the date it will reach capacity.

"We do have some very close deadlines. We're looking, at the moment, at two or three months of air factor, or load time," left at the landfill, said Stanley Hong, president of Waste Management Inc. of Hawaii. The city could instruct the company to increase the height of the landfill 35 feet to add "maybe eight months" to its life, said Joe Hernandez, the landfill's environmental and operations manager.

The state Department of Health allows the plant to reach 400 feet above mean sea level.

"We're at probably 15 feet below that, at a cone, now," Hernandez said.

To go higher, however, would violate the Health Department's conditions.

Steven Chang, Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch chief, said the city could be fined as much as $10,000 a day for exceeding its allowable capacity.

But Health Director Bruce Anderson, Chang's boss, said last night that he is willing to consider modifiying the city's existing permit for a 35-feet increase in capacity, adding that he does not anticipate fining the city.

"If they are acting in good faith and submitting an application for expansion and doing what is reasonable by way of protecting the environment, I see no reason to issue any fines or penalties," he said.

Anderson said he told city Managing Director Ben Lee late yesterday afternoon that "we would be receptive to such an application so long as environmental concerns are addressed."

Lee told the Star-Bulletin the additional 35 feet should give the city enough capacity to complete its environmental impact statement for the project and obtain its permits. The long-term plan for the landfill calls for the 86-acre facility to be expanded to 146 acres, of which 124 acres would be used as a dump.

Waste Management officials said the comment period for the EIS has been extended seven times, totaling 375 days. The latest extension is through August.

Lee said that time was well spent because it let the Department of Environmental Services address community concerns. Area residents say the existing facility smells and is unsightly, while others have questioned the need for more landfill space.

In response, Lee said, the city is proposing an expansion of HPOWER, creating a garbage-separation facility next to the landfill, and providing land for any company interested in converting waste to hydrogen fuel.

Waste Management officials said the life of the landfill, originally expected to run through 2004, could have been extended a little longer had it not been for recent HPOWER malfunctions.

The facility is supposed to go down for maintenance three weeks each year. But last year, the replacement of superheaters resulted in it being shut down 108 days. And so far this year, the plant was down for more than six weeks to deal with the breakdown of a generator.

The amount of waste going into the landfill increases three times when HPOWER is not operational, Hernandez said.

Anderson acknowledged that there is a possibility the existing landfill may reach capacity before even the modified permit can be approved by the state, a process that could take months.

The Health Department "may temporarily allow for an extension while we're processing the permit application," he said.

"We do not want to go down that course of emergency permitting or providing an exemption if that can be avoided."

He added: "They need to come in right away if they anticipate being in violation of the permit."

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