Leeward Coast residents hoping to rid themselves of Waimanalo Gulch Landfill will have to wait awhile.
Tim Steinberger, the director of the city's Environmental Services Department, told members of the City Council's Public Works and Sustainability Committee on Wednesday that it would take seven years and at least $110 million to develop a new landfill on Oahu.
"In the best-case scenario, if you found the ideal site that everybody said, 'This is a great location,' we're saying seven years," said Steinberger.
Last week, Mayor Peter Carlisle's Landfill Site Selection Committee chose two military-owned parcels in Kahuku as the top picks for the island's next landfill. Other parcels making the top 10 include two sites in Pupukea, one in Kailua, two in Leeward Oahu and one in Hawaii Kai.
But while pursuing a site for the island's next landfill, Steinberger testified the city wants to keep Waimanalo Gulch open as long as possible. Under a 92.5-acre expansion completed last year, the current landfill has enough capacity to receive solid municipal waste for another 15 years.
"That's always been our position," said Steinberger. "We've always said that we own Waimanalo Gulch (and) the infrastructure is there."
However, under an October 2009 ruling by the state Land Use Commission, Waimanalo Gulch must stop accepting trash after July 31, 2012. Only ash and residue from the Honolulu Program of Waste Energy Recovery, otherwise known as the H-Power plant, would be allowed.
In order to prevent a potential public health emergency, the city is petitioning the Planning Commission to remove the drop-dead date on Waimanalo Gulch. If successful, the issue would then move to the LUC for further deliberations. The city is also awaiting a ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court on whether the Land Use Commission overstepped its bounds after oral arguments were heard by the high court in February.
If the effort to keep Waimanalo Gulch open is unsuccessful, the city could be forced to petition the governor for assistance.
"You would have to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency, public health emergency on this, and allow the continued use of the landfill," said Steinberger.
Councilman Stanley Chang, chairman of the Public Works and Sustainability Committee, told KITV4 he's not convinced a new landfill will be developed anytime soon.
"Unless somebody could justify why we should spend at least seven years and over $110 million of taxpayer money to do something that's completely unnecessary, I'm unconvinced," said Chang.