Landfill Expansion Voted Down by Board

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Landfill Expansion Voted Down by Board

Ethan Hoppe

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On Wednesday, September 4 at Nānākuli High and Intermediate Schoolʻs multipurpose cafeteria, there was a Nānākuli-Maili Neighborhood Board meeting to discuss the PVT landfill plan to expand to the northwest side of Lualualei Road. 

PVT Land Company limited is a private business that deals in solid waste management, working with materials from construction and demolition sites. 

The landfill accepts “non-hazardous materials- which includes but is not limited to wood, metal, plastic, concrete, asphalt, glass, masonry, roofing, rock, dirt, boulders, and siding,” according to the PVT website, as well as some materials containing asbestos.

PVT was the only subject on the Board’s meeting’s agenda. An earlier Neighborhood Board meeting was adjourned early due to heated emotions and frustration with the limited time to share testimony.

“We all learned from our mistakes from last time,” said Kalani Puaoi. Prior to the meeting, he and other members of the community-led people at the meeting in the traditional Hawaiian protocol of chants and a short address on the importance of Kapu Aloha and the role it was to play in this meeting.

Then when the protocol was adjourned, the collected people returned to the cafeteria for the 7:00 p.m. meeting. 

At the beginning of the meeting, after reviewing some of the formalities, it was established that speakers would direct all testimonies to the board themselves, to prevent similar anger amongst community members like in the past. 

Though this meeting was to be rooted in Kapu Aloha that did not stop anger from swelling. At certain points of the night the crowd became hostile. There were multiple occasions when there was “booing,” and other verbal forms of bullying against speakers in support and rallying against PVT, even at times directed towards the Members of the Board.

A motion was passed by the board to limit all discussion from the community to 1 minute a person in respect to the time limit. This was passed despite the disapproval from the community and so to compromise, it was decided that the board members would be under this 1 minute time constraint as well.

After the board ended discussion it took arguments and testimonies from both sides of this very controversial issue. Those against the further development and extension for PVT cited multiple reasons, health being one of them.

People claimed that their families have been affected; that the dust and air pollution coming from PVT and the transportation of debris to PVT’s location, affects this already at-risk community, linking asthma and other ailments, even cancer to this landfill. 

Some residents of Nānākuli and other pro PVT supporters refuted that claim and said that they had never been affected. Towards the beginning of the night, one woman claimed to have fished in-stream adjacent to PVT and said that she is fine.

Steve Joseph, director of planning and permitting, took steps to reassure that they do all they can to mitigate the threat of asbestos. Employees are given time each year to go to the doctor as an extra precautionary measure and the thought is that they would not send these workers to work in conditions that would endanger them.

“We care for our employees,” said Joseph on the air quality.

 “The Community just really needs to come out here and see what we [PVT] do,”  said Kapua Kanui the PR representative of PVT. “What PVT does is they help to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels” 

This was a crucial point for the pro PVT argument, the good that they do for the community, scholarships they provide, the benefits for our economy, the benefits even for the ‘āina (land) in their recycling process.

Despite this, there was still pushback from the community based on cultural, medical, and on sheer principle. 

“Though PVT, they do a great deed for our community, we’re sick of being the dumping grounds,” said Kawena Houlu.

With all the concerns raised, eventually, the board came to a decision. 

“The purpose of tonight was to give the community an opportunity to voice their opinion, for the board to hear that opinion and for the board to take a position, as an advisory board,” said Cynthia Rezentes Chair of the Nānākuli-Maili Neighborhood Board.

“The board likes what PVT is doing but in general we do not support them expanding their process to the land on the Honolulu side of Lualualei Naval Road.”

The next steps include more public hearings for regulatory approvals needed for the project from the State Land Use Commission, City Planning Commission, and the City Department of Planning and Permitting.