LEEWARD OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The pressure is on to find a new landfill site on Oahu after medical waste and other trash from the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill overflowed a catch pond, discharging into the ocean. The pond has been drained and the cleanup is underway. The landfill will remain closed until Saturday while crews check for any storm damage. The city's landfill siting committee already had its first meeting scheduled for this week. Now the members face a new sense of urgency as they start the process of looking for alternative locations.
The lagoons at Ko Olina should have been packed on the Martin Luther King Junior holiday, but people were being kept away from the contaminated water. A test from last Thursday showed a high level of bacteria. City officials said the latest samples show bacteria levels are starting to return to normal, but beaches near the landfill will remain closed for now.
"This is something we wished never happened. Not totally unexpected. We have long asserted the landfill was detrimental not only to the economic viability of our resort, but more importantly to the communities health and safety," said Ken Williams of the Ko Olina Community Association.
"Their concerns are completely valid that they've had the landfill there for a long time, and I'm sure that's something that the landfill siting committee will be taking into account," said city managing director Doug Chin.
The committee will come up with a list of recommendations within the next 6 to 8 months. The State Land Use Commission granted an extension allowing the city to keep the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill open until July 2012.
"If that permit isn't allowed to continue on, then the city's going to have to be able to look for another location or be able to find other ways to dispose of this kind of waste," Chin said.
Many residents and businesses want the dump closed now. The new Disney resort is set to open this fall, and executives from Ko Olina want to make sure that the property stays pristine.
"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," said Williams.