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Potential landfill sites on Oʻahu may require a bill modification to make progress

A large truck pushing material at the Waimānalo Gulch Landfill in 2020.
A large truck pushing material at the Waimānalo Gulch Landfill in 2020.

The city had until this week to come up with a site for a new landfill for Oʻahu’s trash, but state lawmakers then passed a bill which added constraints on conservation land and residential areas.

Last month Ernie Lau, the Board of Water Supply’s Chief Engineer, gave a thumbs down to all four proposed sites.

Lau said the sites were too close to the city’s aquifer and after what the community has gone through with the fuel contamination at Red Hill, the city was left with no choice but to ask for a two year extension.

The Conversation talked to Roger Babcock, the Director of the City’s Environmental Services Department, Wednesday afternoon about the limited options.

Act 73, which was approved two years ago, creates a so-called 'no pass' zone, where waste disposal sites can't be in the same vicinity as a conservation district.

This requires a buffer zone of no less than a half-mile around residences, schools and hospitals for construction, modification or expansion of waste or disposal sites, according to the bill.

"Where we were at during the process up till now was we were looking at all sites that really are inside the 'no pass' zone," said Babcock. "And the reason for that was really Act 73, which further restricted where we could possibly locate and it basically doesn't leave anything outside of the 'no pass' zone, except for federal lands."

Babcock said there is a possibility that they may try to modify Act 73, by making changes to the conservation areas and the buffer zone.

"If both of those were repealed, at least in a couple of locations, there's a couple of places that might be suitable."

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 29, 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.
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