Building a Landfill Over Pipeline to 90 Percent of Oahu’s Drinking Water Sparks Major Debate, Negotiation in Senate

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One of the most controversial bills to surface in the Hawaii State Legislature’s 2003 session will allow a landfill to be built in Kunia over the water aquifer that provides drinking water to between 75 percent and 90 percent of Oahu’s residents. Senators monitoring the bill say it is expected to pass or fail this week based on one vote.

The bill, SB 1532 introduced by Senate President Robert Bunda, D-North Shore, will be passionately debated and voted on the Senate floor either this Tuesday or Thursday, and if the majority of Senators support the bill, it will crossover to the House for the Representatives’ consideration and vote.


Senators, even the Republican minority of 5 of 25, were lobbied hard to support the bill by the Senate president, leading more than one to question the Senate president’s motivation. Neither Senate President Robert Bunda nor his staff researcher returned calls to

One Democrat Senator reports the Senate president told him it was extremely important to him personally that the bill pass, reportedly leading some Senators to horse trade support for the president in exchange for his backing of their legislation, while others refuse to play political games.

The bill moved quickly and quietly through the state Senate, passing first reading on Jan. 24, just 9 days after the opening of the 60-day session, and in an unusual turn of events, skipped the Environment and Government Affairs committees it was referred and instead was re-referred to the Water Land and Agriculture. The votes in Water Land and Agriculture, chaired by Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-Big Island, were three in favor, Sens. Lorraine Inouye, D-Big Island, Willie Espero, D-Ewa, and Melodie Aduja, D-Kahaluu, and two vehemently opposed including Sens. Kalani English, D-Maui and Paul Whalen, R-Big Island, according to legislative records.

Those in favor of the bill angrily dismiss claims the proposal is dangerous, risky and irresponsible. While those opposed to the measure are not compromising their position and say without a doubt, the bill should never have made it this far in the legislative process because it is “a ridiculous idea.”

The arguments between the proponents and opponents are clear. Advocates say the state government needs to intervene in this waste matter, normally handled by the city and county of Honolulu, because the administration of Mayor Jeremy Harris and the former members of the Honolulu City Council have not adequately addressed the island’s growing mountain of trash.

H-Power, the county’s incinerator, was down more than half the year last year, leading to an even more substantial build up of garbage at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill in Waianae.

The state Department of Health has extended the permit for the landfill on a number of occasions, allowing the city to add more than 30 feet to the height restriction limit and greatly upsetting the surrounding community.

Advocates also say more than 85 percent of land on Oahu is over one water table or another, leaving few alternatives for a new landfill on the island. They also claim those opposed are rabid environmentalists who don’t have suggestions for viable alternatives to this plan.

State Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-Kailua, says there simply is no other way