Document shows landfill operator fined for design failures

Carroll Cox
Carroll Cox

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

KAPOLEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A document has come to light, showing that the operator of the Waimanalo Gulch landfill and the city were fined $424,000 last year for design failures at the landfill.

The fine was in a notice of violation issued in May 2010, which contended that Waste Management and the city failed to follow design specifications for a liner that was supposed to cover waste, and built the west berm of the landfill too high. According to the notice, the liner was of a lower quality than specified.

Carroll Cox, of the environmental group EnviroWatch, noted that the company had paid an even bigger fine. "That comes on the heels of a $2.8 million dollar fine that they paid earlier, for earlier violations. So this is just a constant dripping, so to speak, of one big problem after the other," Cox said.

The huge fine was assessed in 2006; according to the notice of violation, the design process involved in the latest fine began the same year.

Cox contends that the failure to follow the design contributed to the problems that arose when floodwaters went through the landfill and spread refuse and medical waste along the Leeward Oahu coast. "I think I would probably not be here doing this interview, and we wouldn't see the people of Ko Olina, who are rightfully outraged," said Cox. "We wouldn't have the general public querying this one big question: How did medical waste get into the environment, get into the ocean?"

Ko Olina residents were present at a Kapolei Neighborhood Board meeting Wednesday night to discuss the problems at the landfill. Meantime, the city announced Wednesday that the landfill would reopen Friday to allow city crews to dispose of backlogged waste. It will reopen to the general public next week Wednesday.

Cox says the document also points to continuing problems at Waste Management, which have been only made worse by the heavy rain.

"What they are really facing now is having to work in the mud now, in that area. Not just from that storm, but also from water that had gotten behind the liner, and gotten into the cell and presenting a bigger problem," Cox said.

The city's Environmental Services Department said the fine had been settled with the state Health Department. But Cox said it's no longer just an environmental cost, but a cost to taxpayers, because of the fines.

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