City in high-stakes talks with military over proposed new landfill site

“We’ve asked them to help us solve a problem,” said Blangiardi.
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 5:27 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 9:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last year, the city went back to the drawing board on selecting a new site for a municipal landfill after the Board of Water of Supply said six potential locations identified to replace Waimanalo Gulch in Nanakuli were too close to Oahu’s aquifer.

And now, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi told HNN the city is in early talks with Admiral John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, about the future of Oahu’s trash.

“We’ve asked them to help us solve a problem,” said Blangiardi.

“The sensitivity about water could not be any greater.”

One idea is to move the landfill to military property that the city would take over.

Blangiardi says there are multiple military sites under discussion and the choice would need Department of Defense approval, but he’s repeatedly promised it won’t be on the west side.

“The tone has been very ‘we want to help,’” he said. “Nobody said it’s a bad idea.”

The mayor says the military is collaborating with the city and trying to make things right.

In 2021, the Navy’s fuel leaks from its Red Hill fuel facility near Pearl Harbor sickened thousands of people, damaged relations with the community and put all military properties under a spotlight.

“They need a friendlier Hawaii towards them and I think we are in that dance right now,” said Blangiardi. “They are looking for some opportunity to create some good will,” he added.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command told HNN the military currently uses about 5% of the land in the state.

“We are meticulously evaluating each parcel to determine if any of these meet the parameters established by Act 73 and are in a condition suitable for transfer to the City and County of Honolulu for a landfill,” said U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Public Affairs, in a statement.

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“We have learned from our past and take seriously the responsibility of rebuilding trust that was lost following the fuel release at Red Hill,” the statement added.

The Waimanalo Gulch landfill is slated to close in 2028, but the city has asked for more time.

Meanwhile, lawmakers say they support the talks with the military.

“I think talking to anybody is better than asking for another extension so I don’t support any more extensions of this,” said Councilmember Andria Tupola.

“That is exactly the route we need to go,” added state Rep. Darius Kila. “If the military wants to continue to be here in Hawaii, I need them to step up to be partners.”