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MAYOR VETOES BILL 37 ON  WAIMANALO GULCH LANDFILL

 

            Mayor Mufi Hannemann today vetoed Bill 37 (2005), CD2, which would have required the City to close its Waimanalo Gulch landfill in Leeward Oahu by May 1, 2008.

            “It is with a heavy heart that I veto Bill 37,” said Hannemann. “Over the past year we had looked at every possible angle and option to close the landfill in the near future, for it is my belief that the whole island of Oahu should share in the responsibility of disposing of our opala.

            “But the reality is, we cannot shut it down without a replacement in sight. Even if a new location were identified today, it would take more than five years to obtain the necessary permits to open a landfill there,” the mayor said. 

            “Under these conditions, enactment of this bill would cripple the City’s ability to carry out our municipal solid waste disposal obligations. It could, quite literally, leave us choking on our own garbage. Therefore, with my veto action, I am reaffirming the decision the City Council made in December of 2004.”

            In December 2004, under pressure from the state Land Use Commission, the City Council adopted a resolution selecting Waimanalo Gulch as the City’s “new landfill site” after May 1, 2008. The resolution cited six primary reasons why Waimanalo Gulch was chosen, including 15 additional years of landfill capacity, the fact that it is owned by the City and would be least expensive to develop and maintain as a landfill.

             “The Council’s passage of Bill 37 just 14 months later placed the City in an impossible position, especially since the Council failed to recommend an alternative site,” Hannemann said.

            He said shipping Oahu’s refuse to out of state, as some have suggested, would be prohibitively expensive, and would face tremendous regulatory obstacles. New technologies to dispose of refuse and eliminate the need for a landfill are unproven. The H-POWER plant burns more than one-third of Oahu’s refuse, reducing its volume by 90 percent, but the ash still has to be placed somewhere.

            Environmental Services Director Eric Takamura noted that former mayor Jeremy Harris publicly promised he would shut the landfill down by 2008 but never took the steps to do so because he also signed a 15-year contractor extension with Waste Management of Hawaii to operate the landfill. “That action only contributed to the perception that the Leeward Coast is consistently taken for granted.”

            Recognizing that, Mayor Hannemann’s administration reexamined dozens of possible alternate sites that had been previously identified and dismissed, including the Ameron Quarry in Kapaa and even Central Oahu locations such as Poamoho, without success. The mayor noted that two separate, recent studies each identified the same eight sites that met the preliminary criteria for a future landfill. Five of the eight sites were on the Waianae Coast, and the other three, in Windward Oahu, are not available.

            Therefore, Hannemann said his administration will continue its efforts to address community and regulatory concerns with the Waimanalo Gulch landfill and continue to work on reducing Oahu’s need for landfill space.

            He also announced that Waste Management of Hawaii, which operates the Waimanalo Gulch landfill under contract with the City, will continue to build upon the improvements made ever since his administration took office, including, but not limited to, reducing leachate levels and odors, improved grading, reducing litter and better record-keeping. Furthermore, Waste Management has committed to:

  • Spending $100,000 to $200,000 over the next two years to landscape the entrance to the landfill.
  • Work with the City and the state Department of Health on a supplemental environmental program.
  • Work with his administration to develop additional programs to benefit the community.

            In addition, Hannemann said he plans to establish a citizens advisory board consisting of residents from Honokai Hale to Makaha that will work directly with Waste Management to better address the needs and concerns of Waianae Coast residents. The committee will also serve as an oversight board, ensuring that the daily operations are conducted in a transparent and open manner.

            Environmental Services Director Takamura added, “Residents should make every effort to visit the landfill site and take a tour to see it for themselves.”     

            Takamura added, “We will need a landfill into the foreseeable future, but we can do our best to reduce our dependence on Waimanalo Gulch, with our greencycling program of recycling. And, as the mayor said last week, we’re partnering with Hawaiian Electric to explore new, alternative energy technologies fueled by municipal solid waste.

            “At this point, there appears to be no magic bullet to solve our refuse issues in the short term,” Takamura said. 

            The mayor called on the Council to “work with the administration to deal with the solid waste disposal challenge for the benefit of all our constituents.”

            Hannemann had until March 2 to veto Bill 37 or let it become law without his signature.

Now that he has vetoed it, according to the City Charter, the Council may vote on the veto after five days and within 30 days. Six votes would be needed to override the veto. The Council passed the bill on a 7-2 vote.

            The mayor added that if the Council votes to override his veto, it should be prepared to meet the conditions of the state Land Use Commission order and immediately select a new landfill site.

 

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Contact:

           

            Bill Brennan, 527-6928

            Mark Matsunaga, 527-5767

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

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