HONOLULU (KHON2)– Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill, located in west Oahu, has overstayed its welcome for years, and now Waimanalo on the windward side could find itself host to the city’s next waste facility.
Bellows is on a list of four federal sites the city says are candidates for a landfill because they’re outside of what’s called the “no pass” zone — anywhere too close to one of the island’s aquifers.
“There’s the Iroquois Point area, there’s the Waipio Peninsula, and then there’s the bellows on the windward side. So those are all potential, theoretically possible places,” said Roger Babcock, of the Department of Environmental Services.
So is federal land at Lualaulei, but the mayor has pledged this:
“Not on the west side, we understand that we’ve heard that community, we inherited that responsibility. It’s been a very short timeline,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi.
A timeline administration after administration has come up against with continual extensions of the existing landfill in west Oahu, and demands from county and state agencies to shut that one down, and open one somewhere else. the mayor says more candidate locations for the list aren’t likely.
“The island’s only so big, we’re dealing with finite resources and finite possibilities. So it’s not about more, it’s about how, and that’s the discussion we’re having now,” said Blangiardi.
The city was supposed to pick a new spot by the end of last year and is asking for an extension on the choice to the end of 2024. The west side facility is slated to close in 2028.
Complicating the siting task — and leading to the latest extension request before the Honolulu planning commission — a recent law creating buffer zones that says no waste can be disposed within a half mile of homes, schools, airports or hospitals. Plus there are those no-pass zones keeping them away from drinking water sources.
“We went through a really exhaustive study to examine what were the six remaining sites and put a panel of experts together, they spent nearly a year evaluating, and their recommendation coming back was, you know, not over the aquifers,” said Blangiardi.
Waipio peninsula on the shortlist is where the city’s sports complex is, touted as “the first and only soccer facility of its kind in the State” — 21 fields and a 5,000-seat stadium. It’s home to legions of youth soccer matches and UH women’s soccer among others.
KHON2 News wanted to know where are they to go.
“So that would be have to be negotiated and figure out some some solution for that. Presumably, the military would also be involved with helping,” said Blangiardi.
In first petitioning for the extension last December, Babock wrote that if the buffer-zone law wasn’t repealed, they would evaluate using eminent domain to buy homes close to potential sites.
KHON2 asked if a change in the law is still needed.
“I’m not thinking about that right now. We’re aware of that. But I’m not thinking about it,” answered the mayor.
And is taking people’s homes still on the table?
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“That isn’t anticipated at this time,” said Babcock.
The matter of the site-selection extension continues before the planning commission next month. KHON2 will continue to follow up.