Trash may pile up until March
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
After first promising to begin shipping O'ahu's solid waste to the Mainland on Nov. 2, Hawaiian Waste System's first barge now isn't expected to leave Kalaeloa Harbor until late February or early March at the earliest.
That's what Hawaiian Waste Systems Chief Executive Jim Hodge told city Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger during a 90-minute meeting yesterday.
Earlier this month, Hodge told the city he expected to begin shipping by Feb. 12. The company has now given the city nine different shipping dates starting with Nov. 2, according to city officials.
Hawaiian Waste Systems has a contract to accept 100,000 tons of municipal solid waste per year and ship it to a Washington state landfill.
The company began accepting trash at its Campbell Industrial Park compacting and baling facility last Sept. 28. But the waste has been piling up because the company has yet to obtain clearance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, to ship the trash to an acceptable Northwest port.
The waste — most of which is in shipping containers but some of which is not — has drawn complaints about gnats and odors from neighboring businesses in Kalaeloa.
The state Department of Health has issued a letter of warning — but no fines — to the company reminding it to keep older bales in containers and exposed bales off the ground, Hodge said.
One sign of progress this week was that a notice of environmental assessment for the shipping plan was posted Tuesday in the Federal Register. That triggered a 30-day comment period during which the public can comment on the study.
That process has to be completed before APHIS will approve the shipping plan in the form of a compliance agreement.
The company actually already has a compliance agreement to ship its waste directly to the Port of Roosevelt in Washington state, where the waste is to be buried. But the officials said the agreement requires the trash to be unloaded onto a stationary dock, and the port does not have one.
The current application for an amended agreement would allow the company to ship to ports in Rainier or Longview, Wash., or to Portland, Ore., and then complete the journey to Roosevelt by train or truck.
What happens after the 30-day period ends on Feb. 18 depends on what kind of feedback comes back, said USDA spokesman Larry Hawkins.
"It would depend on whether or not some issues are raised that may not have been adequately addressed in the environmental assessment," Hawkins said in a telephone call from the APHIS' Sacramento, Calif., office.
Under the best-case scenario for Hawaiian Waste Systems, a compliance agreement could be issued a few days after Feb. 18, Hawkins said.
Hodge told city officials yesterday that he expects to get the go-ahead either at the end of February or the beginning of March.
"I thought (the publishing in the Federal Register) would be out by the end of the year, and it didn't get out until (this week), but at least the clock is running now," Hodge said.
He estimated that the company has about 200 to 300 containers of trash in storage now.
Hawaiian Waste Systems recently asked the city to cut back the amount it delivers from 300 tons a day to 100, and the city complied.
"We have basically two barge-loads that we need to move right away, and we have made arrangements to move two barge-loads just as quickly after that date as we can," Hodge said.
Steinberger, however, said that company officials told him at yesterday's meeting that they they were still in negotiations with two shipping companies.
"Until the compliance agreement is issued and they have a shipper on contract, I'm still very concerned about the stockpiling of all the 'ōpala at Campbell Industrial Park," Steinberger said.
'DELAY AFTER DELAY'
Asked what would happen if no trash has been shipped by the middle of March, Steinberger said the next step would likely need to be discussed with the state Health Department.
Hawaiian Waste Systems' contract requires the company to accept 100,000 tons of solid waste from the city each year at $99 a ton. But the city isn't required to pay for the service until it gets receipts proving the trash has been placed in a landfill.
APHIS is required to place in containers trash left exposed for 75 days or more.
Honolulu Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz said he's not happy that there's yet another postponement of the shipping date.
"It's been delay after delay after delay," said Dela Cruz, who wants an audit of the Hawaiian Waste Systems contract. "When you're dealing in any kind of contract, we want to proceed knowing that the vendor is capable of providing whatever service it is they're contracted to do."