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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 12, 2010

Trash pact with HWS reeks

The piles of shrink-wrapped trash awaiting shipment to Washington state reek. And so does the deal the city made with the contractor to ship them.

Hawaiian Waste Systems, under that pact, was to ship O'ahu trash to a Mainland dump, as part of the city's strategy for dealing with its rubbish in an era of shrinking landfill space.

The original timetable had shipments starting last October, but HWS has postponed the trip almost a dozen times. The complications include the need for approvals from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is concerned about introducing pests through the landfilled trash. At the earliest, city officials say, the operation could start at the end of the month.

Confidence on this point is not high.

If things continue to drag on, eventually the contractor will run out of time to fulfill its shipment quota and the contract will fold under its own weight. But it would be crazy to sit back and wait for that to happen. It would be far better if the city could clean up the mess, dispatching the trash bales to H-Power sooner rather than later.

With the support of some City Council members, administration officials and their lawyers are exploring possible escape hatches in the contract. Good. It's high time the city gave HWS a hard deadline to ship the trash.

Surely the period of limbo we're enduring can end with the fiscal year on June 30. That would allow the city to move on both with the waste-disposal planning for the long term and with the current budget-balancing act.

The proposed budget for the coming year includes $10 million for the Hawaiian Waste Systems deal. Finding another use for that money would be a snap.