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State Land Use Commission To Consider City Landfill Closure

Wayne Yoshioka/HPR
Waimanalo Gulch Landfill

The Hawaii Land Use Commission is taking up the issue of closing the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill, Oahu's only municipal solid waste refuse dump.

In 2009, the commission voted to eliminate solid waste from the landfill by July 31, 2012. However, when 2012 came around, the Hawaii Supreme Court overturned the decision.

The high court cited the Honolulu Planning Commission’s evaluation outlining the continuing need to deposit solid waste in the landfill after the 2012 date.

The question of whether to close the city-operated landfill has been debated ever since.

In June, the city’s planning commission approved a permit for Waimanalo Gulch to stay open until it reaches capacity, with no firm deadline in place for closure. The decision added the conditions to the permit that required the city to find an alternative landfill location by December 31, 2022.

However, some community members near the landfill want a firm closing deadline set for the facility.

The Ko Olina Community Association and state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro have objected to the Planning Commission’s decision. In a summary of objections, they asserted that “the Landfill has harmed public health, safety and welfare.”

KOCA and Shimabukuro want to see the landfill completely closed by March 2, 2027.

Last week, the state Office of Planning, which conducts research for the Land Use Commission, recommended the panel approve the city’s permit request.

However, the planning office called on the city to not only select an alternative landfill location, but work to acquire the property and file the necessary permits by December 31, 2022.

The city Department of Environmental Services argued that the requrement to pursue acquisition and file for land use permits "is unsupported by the record" because "there is no logical justification."

Environmental Services Director Lori Kahikina explained that although H-Power, the waste-to-energy power plant, has cut down the amount of solid refuse going to the landfill, the need for a landfill will never be eliminated.

“You will always have to have a landfill because the permit for H-Power requires a backup,” she said. “Every year each boiler needs to go down for two to three weeks for maintenance. When those boilers go down, we need to divert to a landfill . . . if there’s major storms, for emergency purposes, you still need a landfill,” she said.

The Land Use Commission hearing begins at 9 a.m. on Wednesday at the Airport Conference Center and is scheduled to continue to Thursday.

Ashley Mizuo
Born and raised on O’ahu, she’s a graduate of ‘Iolani School and has a BA in Journalism and Political Science from Loyola University Chicago and an MA in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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