City seeks 2-year extension for finding new landfill site, putting years-long effort in limbo

City officials says the request comes after an exhaustive process to find a new site failed.
Published: Dec. 23, 2022 at 3:56 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 23, 2022 at 5:20 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city is seeking a two-year extension to a state Land Use Commission order that it select a new site for a 90-acre municipal landfill by the end of 2022.

City officials says the request comes after an exhaustive process to find a new site failed.

“This decision is not insignificant,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “We want more time.”

He added, “There’s a lot of emotion on this subject and we know that.”

The years-long effort to select a new landfill site has been fraught with tensions, not least of which because communities don’t want a new landfill in their backyard but also because of environmental considerations.

Get more details on the landfill selection process by clicking here.

The new city landfill would replace the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill, the only active municipal landfill on Oahu.

In 2019, the state Land Use Commission granted a city permit to continue using the landfill as long as it begins the process of opening a new landfill somewhere else and shuttering operations in West Oahu.

Neighborhood groups have called for the landfill’s closure for years, saying it’s an undue burden.

In issuing the permit, the commission said Waimanalo Gulch Landfill must close by 2028.

“We want more time,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “We are not trying to do anything the easy way because most of these problems are tough to solve.”

His head of environmental services is asking for a two year extension.

It was not immediately clear how an extension might impact that timing.

In a news conference Friday, city Department of Environmental Director Roger Babcock said if the extension isn’t approved, the city will have to choose one of six recommended options.

The problem with that: All of those sites are opposed by the Board of Water Supply because they are located in areas above Oahu drinking water aquifers.

Eleven other sites identified as part of a separate process were also ruled out.

Babcock said the extension will allow the city to go back to the state Legislature to make changes to a law that instituted a host of requirements on where the landfill could and couldn’t be.

“There no options available right now for landfill sites,” said Babcock.

That’s why the city is also looking at the possibility of a site on federal land.

“In terms of meeting Act 77 and other restrictions, there are some possible military sites,” said Babcock. “The navy has properties in the Pearl Harbor area as well as the west side. Getting an agreement with the federal government would take an act of congress so it would be quite an endeavor.”

When asked if they think the extension will be approved, Director Roger Babcock said, “We hope.”

A cliffhanger, with a week to go before the December 31st deadline.