Dec 15, 2021

Proposed Sites For Oahu, Hawai'i, New Landfill Would Threaten Drinking Water

There are only four areas that comply with local, state and federal regulations, and all of them are above drinking water aquifers.

hawaii water supply

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply is expressing concern about Oahu’s next landfill, as it could contaminate drinking water.

The Honolulu Department of Environmental Services said its options are limited for the next landfill because of a 2020 state law, which eliminated almost all of the sites it was previously considering, reported Honolulu Civil Beat. 

There are only four areas that comply with local, state and federal regulations, and all of them are above drinking water aquifers.

According to Senate Bill 2386, signed into law in 2020 as Act 73, landfills can’t be in conservation zones or within a half-mile of a residential, school or hospital property line. 

Act 73 removed every site that was not above a drinking water aquifer, many of which were on the Westside, reported Honolulu Civil Beat. 

“In terms of trying to prevent contamination of a vital resource, it works against it,” said Ernie Lau, chief engineer at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, reported Honolulu Civil Beat. “The attention that right now is being focused on our precious drinking water resources and how we can preserve and keep them clean and uncontaminated may be an opportunity to revisit some of the constraints that are created by legislation.”

The recent fuel leak at Red Hill has opened the door for amending the 2020 law, however, reported Honolulu Civil Beat.

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The Landfill Advisory Committee has until Dec. 31, 2022, to recommend a site for the island’s next landfill.

The island’s only municipal waste landfill, Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill, is required to close by March 2028.

Environmental Services presented the first batch of results from a wide-ranging residential survey, and almost all of the 476 respondents listed “Distance to Surface and Drinking Water” as the most important criteria to consider.

The survey results were collected before news of the Red Hill fuel leak broke.

The city is pushing for the island’s next landfill to have two liners, which surpasses federal requirements, reported Honolulu Civil Beat.

The next LAC meeting is scheduled for Feb. 7 and members will finalize the list of criteria that will be used to score and rank potential landfill sites. A draft list can be found here.

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