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Environmental Enforcement: EPA Issues Cleanup Order to Honolulu Landfill Operator

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday issued an order to Waste Management, Inc. to take immediate steps to clean up recent releases of waste and contaminated storm water and prevent future releases from the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill on Oahu.

Waste Management, the contractor operating the landfill for the City and County of Honolulu, agreed to comply with the EPA’s order.

On January 12 and 13, heavy rains caused extreme flooding at the landfill. A section of the landfill’s property filled with storm water, causing waste to be released and resulted in beach closures.

According to the EPA, the agency promptly dispatched an emergency responder and engineers to assist the Hawaii Department of Health and the City and County of Honolulu with the response at the landfill. The responders are monitoring ocean water and any water released from the landfill. In addition, the agencies are monitoring the stability of the landfill, and cleaning up waste that reached nearby beaches.

The EPA administrative order requires Waste Management to prevent toxic storm water discharges from the landfill. In addition, the company is required to continue daily beach inspections and cleanup.

Last year, Waste Management and the City of Honolulu were fined $424,000 (pdf) for design failures at the landfill, according to the Hawaii Department of Health.

The fine was levied in a notice of violation issued by the Department of Heath in May 2010, which said that Waste Management and the city failed to follow design specifications for a liner that was supposed to cover waste, and built the west berm of the landfill too high. According to the notice, the liner was of a lower quality than specified.

In addition to imposing the fine, the Department of Health ordered Waste Management and the city to “proceed with the construction of the west berm buttress in accordance with design specifications.”

Waste Management’s 2010 sustainability report said that the company had 68 violations in 2009, the lowest level in three years.

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