Friday, January 28, 2011


Civil Beat digs deeper into causes of the medical waste spill

by Larry Geller

An article on Civil Beat by Michael Levine gives the best insight into what happened at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill so far. It’s the kind of story our newspapers should have given us.

In Stormwater Released Into Ocean to Avoid Larger Landfill Catastrophe (1/28/2011), Levine interviews Department of Health Deputy Health Director Gary Gill on the sequence of events that resulted in medical waste washing ashore on Leeward beaches. Bottom line, Gill said the release was necessary to prevent something worse.

Please check out the article.

What is still undetermined is whether the design of the storm water system was adequate in the first place. Hawaii typically experiences a rainy season each year at about this time. Also, the city continues to pick up storm water that could be managed by users themselves.

There are many unanswered questions. In fact, that was the title of a Honolulu Weekly story this week by editor Lucy Jokiel, Unanswered Questions Checklist. The Weekly grabbed photos of trucks discharging into city sewers.

The Civil Beat article makes it clear that (according to the DOH) the waste spill was the result of a deliberate choice to avoid a potentially worse situation. Behind that, though, is how we got to that point in the first place. Was the design of the dump adequate? Is it overloaded? Was Department of Health oversight everything it should have been?

The kind of investigation we need to avoid repetition of this disaster will be carried out by alternative media, it seems. I’m happy to see Civil Beat reporters freed from their paywall captivity and producing quality journalism, as exemplified in today’s story. Sure, there will be more to be learned before the medical waste spill story can be put to rest, but they’re on it.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


Thanks Larry for the shout out this morning. We're proud of our coverage of this landfill crisis. My colleague Adrienne LaFrance has really been on top of the medical waste issue. Check out her latest story on that front — that's the one Kauai blogger Andy Parx wrote about this week:

No Paperwork to Back Up Safety of Medical Waste

Civil Beat also published an unanswered questions story of our own. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, it's a great primer for what we know and what we don't know about what happened at Waimanalo Gulch:

After Landfill Spill, Lots of Questions, Few Answers

I hope you and your readers are enjoying all that Civil Beat has to offer!

I will check out your stories. And I need to get into the habit of reading Civil Beat more regularly now that you're "out". By the way, you can use live links in the comments here if you don't mind typing in the html. I know it's a drag, but that's all they offer at Blogger.

One of us should probably put together the medical waste/landfill articles in some way, even if just a link list. The alternative media is ahead of the traditional folks on this (and other) issues. Anything written on Disappeared News (that's original) can be reproduced freely under the Creative Commons license.

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