Oahu's 'opala piling up on dock
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
The company with a contract to ship O'ahu trash to the Mainland has yet to do so, seven weeks after it first said it would.
Bales of compacted waste are piling up at Hawaiian Waste System's Kalaeloa facility and at Kalaeloa Harbor, but city officials said yesterday that they've been told the company will begin shipping next week.
Seattle-based Hawaiian Waste Systems was the low bidder for the shipping contract. Under the contract, the city pays the company $99.89 for each ton of refuse it accepts. The company is expected to take 100,000 tons annually for three years, or until a third boiler is built at the city facility that burns trash and converts it into electricity.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann broke ground yesterday on the $302 million third boiler at H-Power, the city's 2-decade-old waste-to-energy facility. Expected to begin operations in early 2012, the boiler will increase H-Power's capacity by 40 percent and play a major role in reducing the amount of O'ahu trash going into the city landfill at Waimänalo Gulch, the city said.
Meanwhile the plan was to ship a portion of O'ahu's trash to the Mainland.
Hawaiian Waste began taking city refuse the week of Sept. 28 and was expected to begin shipping sometime in October.
Hawaiian Waste officials have not returned calls in recent weeks. But Tim Steinberger, the city's director of environmental services, said yesterday company officials are now telling him they expect to start shipping trash next week.
"We've had numerous dates come and go," Steinberger said. "Last week, we were told Dec. 27, and then it was changed again to Dec. 30 when they're anticipating shipping. So, again, we'll see what happens."
Steinberger said the company's delays are the result of its attempt to amend its permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It requested that its barge operator and port of destination be changed, he said. Originally scheduled to use a barge company that would dock at the Port of Roosevelt, in Washington state, Hawaiian Waste asked for permission to use a shipper that would dock at the Port of Longview, near the Oregon border. Both ports are along the Columbia River, and under both scenarios the garbage would be loaded onto trucks and be hauled to the 2,500-acre Roosevelt Regional Landfill, Washington's largest dump.
Steinberger said he's been told Hawaiian Waste has now gone back to the original shipper, which would negate the company's need to amend the permit, or obtain a new one.
Hawaiian Waste is still in compliance with its contract with the city, since it is under no deadline to actually ship to the Mainland and is still accepting waste.
"Obviously, our concern is we're still seeing a lot of our 'opala that has been stockpiled at the harbor, some 12,000 tons worth, that has not moved," Steinberger said. "So until it's landfilled, I'm not real comfortable with just having it sit out there."
The USDA permit does state that Hawaiian Waste must ship out trash within 75 days of accepting or be required to rewrap it. But USDA officials recently told Hawaiian Waste they are waiving that requirement since the bales are being stored in a container, Steinberger said.
Steinberger said the city has been giving Hawaiian Waste about 300 tons a day. There have been about 15 days when, for a variety of reasons, Hawaiian Waste has not operated. The contract allows for up to 28 down days a year.
Efforts yesterday to contact an official with the USDA's Western regional office were unsuccessful.
Steinberger said he is meeting with Hawaiian Waste officials tomorrow for an update.
"We should have a lot more information after that meeting," he said.
MAYOR NOT WORRIED
The mayor said the city is not concerned at this point that the contract won't be carried out.
"I don't see anything yet to suggest we should throw in the towel, let's put it that way," Hannemann said. "So we'll just keep wishing and hoping that this happens sometime soon."
Hannemann added that shipping is a complicated process.
"If this were so easy, we would've been able to ship by now so we're trying to do our part to make sure they can actually start to ship the first shipment," he said.
Hawaiian Waste has tangled with the city in the past. After it submitted the lowest of three bids last year, city procurement officers initially declined to award the company the contract, citing noncompliance with several conditions of the bidding process.
A yearlong stalemate ensued, and Hawaiian Waste appealed to the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The two sides reached an agreement in August that included a stipulation that the city be allowed to retain flow control and control over a scale installed at the baling facility.
"I think it would be more of a concern if we were at an impasse," Hannemann said. "We're not (at) an impasse anymore. We've agreed to do it. They've agreed to terms more agreeable to the city. So our role right now is to try to help him (Hawaiian Waste Systems CEO Jim Hodge) bring it to fruition. I know he's had some problems, and we've been very patient. I know we're trying to do all we can and make sure we can do it."
The third boiler at H-Power, which is only a few blocks away from the Hawaiian Waste facility, is expected to burn 900 tons a day, yielding 25 to 30 megawatts of electricity, which is sold to Hawaiian Electric Co. City officials say that's enough to power 25,000 homes. Combined with what's being produced now at the two existing boilers, H-Power will be generating about 84 megawatts, or about 6 percent of the island's electricity.
Seth Myones, president of H-Power operator Covanta Americas, said that in addition to diverting rubbish away from the landfill, the new boiler will eliminate the need to burn nearly 1 million barrels of oil to produce energy for the island.
The facility is funded and owned by the city, but designed, built and operated by Covanta.
Hannemann praised former Mayor Frank Fasi and D.G. "Andy" Anderson, his one-time managing director, for having the foresight to bring the waste-to-energy concept to Honolulu two decades ago.
"It's a technology that is proven, that is sound, that is efficient, that is green," he said.
The notion of expanding H-Power has been discussed for more than a decade but has been delayed by political wrangling. Hannemann said he wanted to make sure the expansion got under way while he is mayor.
Some now believe H-Power is antiquated, but little else to date has proven viable for the city, Hannemann said.
The city is seeking proposals for alternative types of waste disposal.
The Hannemann administration has also come under fire for not following through with a promise former Mayor Jeremy Harris made to the West O'ahu community to shut down Waimänalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill at Kahe Point. While critics believe there is no need for a landfill, the Hannemann administration has insisted that ash and other materials cannot be disposed of in H-Power.
Earlier this year, the state Land Use Commission agreed to allow the city to extend the life of the landfill for three years.
The city had asked for 15 years, and city officials have said repeatedly it will take at least seven years to create a new landfill somewhere else.
While the city has begun looking at alternative sites, its attorneys are exploring the options, Hannemann said.