City & County of Honolulu

City moves for permit
to extend landfill limit

The permit process may take
too long for the city to avoid fines

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The state Health Department began processing the city's application this week to raise the height of the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill by 30 feet.

But because the expansion request is expected to take no less than 90 days, the city could still wind up violating its permit to operate the Leeward Coast facility.

Tim Steinberger, city environmental services director, said he expects the current height limit to be reached in August or September.

"We should just be able to squeak by," Steinberger said.

Health Director Bruce Anderson, however, said that if the city exceeds the limit before expansion is granted, it could be fined up to $10,000 a day.

"The process would clearly entail a public-comment period and hearing, which would probably take a minimum of 90 days to complete," Anderson said.

The temporary expansion is needed because the city is still attempting to obtain approvals for its long-term solid-waste disposal plans at Waimanalo Gulch.

Steinberger said the city asked for the temporary expansion as part of its 1999 request for the long-term project but was stalled because health officials wanted additional information on specifics.

As a result, Anderson said, his office did not formally accept the application until this week. The additional information included responses to concerns such as whether the extra load would cause the piping under the landfill to be crushed, Anderson said.

State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae Coast) criticized Mayor Jeremy Harris for failing to notify surrounding communities that the landfill would soon reach allowable capacity.

"The relevant departments must have had knowledge of the capacity issue," Hanabusa said in a letter to the mayor.

Steinberger said the city expects to be out of the landfill business within five years of obtaining its long-term expansion even though an environmental impact statement said earlier that the city needed the landfill for 15 more years.

"We're now looking at trying to pursue as many technologies as possible to reduce our need (for a landfill)," Steinberger said.

Hanabusa, who is opposed to any further expansion at the landfill, said she is skeptical that the city will be done with landfills in five years and wants a formal commitment from the Harris administration.

In response, Steinberger said, "That's our goal."

City & County of Honolulu

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