(KHNL) The State Health Department has slapped the City and County and Waste Management of Hawaii with a $2.8 million fine for making serious environmental violations.
In one of the largest fines health officials have ever issued, the state is accusing both the city and the private company that operates the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill of 18 violations in a two-year period.
"The department sees these as serious violations that warrant large penalties," said Larry Lau, deputy director of Environmental Health.
The environmental infractions include exceeding height limits at the landfill. Health officials say some basic steps in waste management were not taken, such as covering solid waste on a daily basis.
"We want to keep garbage covered so rats, flies, other insects and disease factors can't get in there and spread things," said Lau.
City officials say the violations came as a surprise. They said as soon as they became aware of the problems last year, changes were made.
"Some things were easy to fix, you know like litter, we got Waste Management to put in a litter crew here, more guys to patrol litter," said Eric Takamura, director of the Department of Environmental Services.
Officials at Waste Management said the landfill is safe, and there is no immediate threat to nearby residents.
Those monitoring the issue agree and said although many of the problems have been fixed, the City and Waste Mangement need to be held responsible for the violations.
City officials say they will not be paying the fine, saying Waste Management is responsible for it.