Bacteria levels "very high," Leeward beaches still closed - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Bacteria levels "very high," Leeward beaches still closed

Ken Williams Ken Williams

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

KO OLINA (HawaiiNewsNow) – Leeward beaches near the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill, including the lagoons at Ko Olina, remain closed Monday. Test results from ocean water samples taken Thursday show "very high" bacteria levels.

The beaches will remain closed until samples show the water is safe. Monday is a state holiday and results of tests taken more recently are not available.

Runoff from an intense rain storm last week carried mud, medical waste, and other trash from the landfill to the sea.

"This is something we wished never happened," said Ken Williams, of the Ko Olina Community Association. "We have long asserted the landfill was detrimental not only to the economic viability of our resort, but more importantly to the community's health and safety," Williams added.

Waste Management, which operates the landfill for the city, continues to pick up trash along the affected coast from White Plains beach to the Kahe power plant.

Joe Whelan, Waste Management general manager, told Hawaii News Now his company has finished pumping water from a large pond at the landfill. It can now inspect the liner under the landfill for damage.

"The storm did wash stones and that type of material off of the side walls of the cells that we are trying to excavate. The action of those stones moving through there could have caused some damage," Whelan said.

It will take two or three days to inspect the liner. If it was not damaged, the landfill may re-open later this week. If it was damaged, repairs will have to be made and it will take longer to re-open the landfill. In the meantime, the city has temporarily suspended its bulky trash collection.

Management at Ko Olina has long said the landfill is in the wrong place. With the new Disney resort at Ko Olina scheduled to open in the fall of 2011 Williams said it is time for the city to find somewhere else to put its trash.

"This resort when fully built out will have $1.5 billion of annual economic activity with probably about $140-million in tax that will be paid to the city and county of Honolulu as well as the state of Hawaii. My point being that an engine, an economic engine, like this needs to be able to enjoy its natural benefits and amenities like the ocean," Williams added.

The state Land Use Commission has given the city permission to use Waimanalo Gulch as its landfill until July 2012. After that the city need a new permit or a new location. Williams said work toward finding that new location should begin immediately.

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