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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 11, 2003

City denies that it's mishandling waste

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

The city yesterday defended its management of waste centers around the island amid accusations of illegal dumping on its property and trash sitting too long before being removed.

At a glance

What: City News, live broadcast with Mayor Jeremy Harris

Topic: Public waste disposal

When: 7-8 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Channel 54

City spokeswoman Carol Costa denied that one of three sites pointed out by state Sen. Melodie Aduja, D-23rd (Kane'ohe, Kahuku), and Carroll Cox, president of the environmental watchdog group EnviroWatch Inc., even contained any illegal material.

Costa said old concrete at the city's La'ie base yard is being stored until it can be used in other construction projects. Costa couldn't say how long the rubble was at the site or how much was stored there.

But, she said, "that's not an illegal dumping. We're storing it there until it can be reused, so it doesn't qualify the La'ie base yard as an illegal dump site."

Guard rails being stored at La'ie will also be recycled, Costa said, but the city is waiting until enough material accumulates to fill a truck.

"It's not cost-effective to take half a load over to the recyclers," she said.

On Monday, Aduja and Cox said the city allowed tons of construction material to be stockpiled at the base yard in La'ie and failed to remove trash from its convenience center in a timely manner. It was among three sites — the others were a private lot in Hau'ula and a city waste transfer station in Hale'iwa — where they also pointed out dozens of abandoned cars, discarded tires, acetylene and propane tanks and even an airplane.

The city moves material out of its convenience centers regularly, avoiding overcrowding and unsafe conditions, said Costa. She said some oil and acetylene tanks found at the Hale'iwa center should not have been there. But she noted that people frequently drop off material that is not accepted.

The city operates six convenience centers on O'ahu, each handling about 5,000 tons of waste a year and costing $250,000 each to operate. The center accepts only household materials and green waste seven days a week.

Three transfer stations also accept a limited amount of household trash, but the stations operate primarily to consolidate trash collected by the city's refuse system. The trash is loaded into huge trucks and hauled to the H-Power incinerator, a green waste recycling center or to Waimanalo Gulch Landfill in Leeward O'ahu.

Waimanalo town received the first convenience center in 1985. It operated 24 hours a day but was unsupervised, said John Lee, acting head for the city Refuse Division.

"We quickly learned that people don't follow the rules and strange things were dumped in the bins," like half a Volkswagen and live calves, Lee said.

Today, with 24-hour guards and limited dumping hours people still try to bring in unacceptable material such as oil, liquids, grease and acetylene tanks. Some people will leave their waste outside of the convenience centers if they arrive after closing hours or have material that isn't allowed, he said.

"If someone simply dumps it in or near one of our convenience centers we pull it into the center and the supervisor has to figure out what's to be done," Lee said. The city spends thousands of dollars a year disposing of illegally dumped material at the centers, he said.

Aduja did not retreat from her criticism.

"The main problem at the convenience center is with regard to the illegal dumping and the lack of oversight," she said. "It appears the administration and supervision involved is not proper and correct."

Cox said the state has little or no oversight at the convenience centers and more control needs to be exercised over the waste.

He said the city should have a system to track an item from arrival to departure, with disposal specified within a certain time. He also said the city needs to have a process in place to handle illegally dumped oil.

"The convenience centers are not managed efficiently," he said.

Lee said white goods are cleared out on a seven- to 10-day cycle. A contractor has been hired to remove batteries, and green waste is removed daily. The city will soon hire a contractor to remove propane tanks, he said.

Aduja, who co-chairs a waste management committee, said she will continue to investigate the centers' operations.