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The clock is ticking on the Waimanalo landfill in West Oʻahu. Here are the city's options

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi

The clock is ticking on the Waimanalo landfill on the westside of Oʻahu. The main garbage dump for the island is supposed to close by March 2028 and the city has to decide on a new site by the end of 2022, as ordered by the state Land Use Commission.

The city’s Landfill Advisory Committee, which is charged with finding the new site, voted Monday not to recommend any of the proposed six locations.

There are a number of options for a new municipal landfill, including maintaining the current one, says Roger Babcock, director of Honolulu’s Environmental Services Department.

He says the committee is also looking at asking for an exception to Act 73 which prevents a landfill from being situated on conservation land.

"They have suggested things like staying where we are at Waimanalo Gulch, looking to get perhaps some sort of modification of Act 73 to allow perhaps use of some poorer conservation lands that are currently not allowed, looking into possibly trying to work with the military on some military lands, also sort of requesting an extension," Babcock told HPR's The Conversation.

The six proposed landfill locations were opposed by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply because they were within zones above the island’s aquifer. The sites were located near Kunia, Waipahu, Waialua and Haleʻiwa.

The landfill committee’s last meeting is scheduled for June 6 and Babcock says they expect to have a final report in July. He says at this point it's not clear what path the city will take.

"In the meantime, we are trying to look under every stone and try and figure out what other options we have. So we're just moving forward, it's not easy. It's never easy to site a landfill, of course. And it's not necessarily any easier to site a new landfill than it is to stay in an existing landfill," Babcock added.

If the landfill closes in March 2028, it will have been in operation for almost 40 years.

More information can be found at honolulu.gov/opala. This interview aired on The Conversation on April 6, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Scott Kim was a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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