Toxic landfill seeks permit extension in Lualualei

The PVT landfill in Lualualei valley in Wai’anae is the only construction and demolition landfill on O’ahu.  It is also certified to take CERCLA hazardous waste, including toxic waste from military clean up sites.  Lualualei is also the site of military munitions storage, electromagnetic radio emissions and offshore dumping of conventional and chemical munitions.   The mostly Native Hawaiian residents of the area suffer the highest rates of asthma in Hawai’i and have high rates of cancer.  They want the landfill to cease operations.


PVT landfill permit extension: Nanakuli residents wait to be heard

Mar 30, 2010 – 07:29 PM | by Austin Zavala | Waianae

WAIANAE—In the heart of Nanakuli, residents are fighting to ensure their safety and health by speaking out against the planned expansion of the PVT landfill. PVT Land Company Ltd., the private landfill’s owner, has applied for an extension permit at the State Department of Health (DOH) to allow the landfill to increase in height.

PVT has operated the landfill on Oahu’s west coast since 1985. The PVT landfill is a construction and demolition material solid waste landfill that is also licensed to accept asbestos-containing materials and petroleum-contaminated soil.

Since its opening, the steadily growing PVT landfill has been the subject of health concerns raised by residents who feel that their voices have not been heard.

“This private landfill is about five-feet away from residents that live there—women, keiki, and kupuna,” said Patty Teruya, chair of the Nanakuli Neighborhood Board. “A landfill does not belong in a community so close to a living area. We, the Nanakuli people, are asking for an EIS [environmental impact statement] of the area or the release of the applications and other paperwork for us to see.”

The main concern raised by the neighborhood board is that a public hearing is not required by law in order for PVT Land Company’s application to be accepted by DOH. Other landfills on Oahu, such as the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill, were required to go before the State Planning and Land Use Commission and the neighborhood boards of affected districts. However, State laws only require public notice for permit applications of municipal solid waste landfills, which PVT landfill is not.

“It’s sad this particular landfill is located in a native Hawaiian community,” said Teruya, a 45-year resident of Nanakuli. “Why are all the landfills located on native Hawaiian land? It’s sad that this has been allowed for so long and the community has no opportunity of notices about the landfill making changes. They can go right over the people that live here without them ever knowing.”

In 2007, two public hearings held independently without participation by PVT Land Company allowed DOH members and Nanakuli residents to discuss the landfill’s impact on the community. Over 30 residents in attendance testified about the amount of dust that blows onto residential properties, due particularly to the landfill’s height that exceeds surrounding fencing, and health concerns from asbestos dumping.

In the initial Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants rule promulgated in 1973, a distinction was made between building materials that would readily release asbestos fibers when damaged and those materials that were unlikely to result in significant fiber release, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The terms “friable” and “non-friable” were used to make this distinction. EPA has since determined that, if severely damaged, friable materials can release significant amounts of hazardous asbestos fibers. Examples of friable materials include sprayed fireproofing on structural steelwork or thermal insulation on pipes.

A non-friable asbestos material is one in which the asbestos fibers are bound or locked into the material’s matrix, so that the fibers are not readily released. Such a material would present a risk for fiber release only when it is subject to significant abrasion through activities such as sanding or cutting with electric power tools. Examples of non-friable asbestos products include vinyl asbestos floor tiles, acoustic ceiling tiles, and asbestos cement products.

All friable asbestos-contaminated material accepted at the PVT landfill site are required to be double-bagged or double-wrapped with plastic before being delivered. Asbestos waste is accepted only on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a 24-hour prior notice and disposed into designated containment pits, unless arrangements are made for extended delivery times. Non-friable asbestos is also accepted for disposal.

Three major health effects associated with asbestos exposure include lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis—a progressive, long-term disease of the lungs.

At one of the public meetings held in October 2007, Deputy Director of Environmental Health Lawrence Lau responded to community concerns. Lau said that it was best for residents to work directly with PVT Land Company and to send complaints to a direct hotline with PVT at (808) 668-1869. He said levels of chemicals found in soil samples in the area had no significant amounts of hazardous materials or metals. Lau encouraged residents to see their physicians when it came to health problems and to document it. He also suggested that residents continue to try and do as much as possible to remain healthy individually. Lau said that the DOH could go as far as revoking the landfill permits from PVT, but also noted that it was a long process.

Since the 2007 meetings, Teruya sent letters to DOH asking for further public hearings and for more information on the PVT landfill.

“We will seek community comments even though public notification of and a hearing on a permit application or draft permit for PVT is not required by law,” said Lau in a response letter. “DOH does care about he community. My staff has conducted many inspections of the facility to ensure that PVT complies with its permit.”

PVT’s operation permit, which expired on February 28, has been under an administrative extension through DOH, which has not yet finalized the application in order for it to be officially reviewed. The application for a permit extension would renew PVT’s existing permit and allow the landfill to extend in height and receive shredded construction debris.

In section 8 of the permit application, which relates to the impact of the landfill on public health and the environment, PVT Land Company stated: “PVT plans to hold a public hearing or public informational meeting regarding the permit renewal. The hearing and meeting will be coordinated with the Nanakuli Neighborhood Board. Minutes will be forwarded to DOH as a supplement to the this permit renewal application.”

State Representative Karen Awana, who represents Nanakuli, assured residents that action would be taken, including surveying community members to record concerns. Awana recently met with Lau and DOH director Chiyome Fukino in March to talk about community health concerns. A spokesperson for Awana said PVT Land Company agreed with DOH to hold a meeting that would hear public input and that they intend to schedule the meeting as soon as the application is finalized.

Promises aren’t enough, Teruya said. She would like to see a hearing process required by law for all landfills like PVT.

“What we are mainly trying to do right now, what we want is the State to produce a resolution or bill that will allow public hearings on any kind of change on [all] landfills—make it mandatory,” Teruya said. “When [the State] did the Waimanalo Gulch, they went through numerous hearings. The State needs to put in a bill that makes it something like that, where it’s required.”

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