Shipment of Honolulu's trash delayed until end of April
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
Shipping of O'ahu garbage to the Mainland has been pushed back yet again, this time until at least the end of April.
City and state officials last week said they've been told by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it won't be until then that Hawaiian Waste Systems LLC gets the OK to send barges of municipal waste from Kalaeloa to the Pacific Northwest to be landfilled.
Hawaiian Waste has a contract with the city to send 100,000 tons of trash to the Mainland but has been unable to ship it since it began accepting waste on Sept. 28. More than 20,000 tons of baled and sealed solid waste is sitting on three different parcels at Campbell Industrial Park.
The company originally anticipated shipping the refuse last October but met with a number of issues, including approval of a compliance agreement with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is tasked with regulating the interstate movement of garbage to protect against the spread of pests and diseases.
"Right now, (USDA officials) are telling us the absolute soonest they would have a compliance agreement out is the end of April," said Tim Steinberger, the city's environmental services director.
In the meantime, Hawaiian Waste finalized deals with three other parties that should allow it to get moving more quickly once it gets the USDA go-ahead.
The company reached tentative agreements to have the waste shipped to the Port of Longview, Wash., by the Brusco Tug & Barge Co. Once at the port, the waste will be transported by train to the Roosevelt Landfill.
Steinberger said he is waiting to see written documentation of the three agreements.
The company has now been given at least 10 different shipping dates, starting with Nov. 2, according to city officials.
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who heads the Public Infrastructure Committee, has expressed some concerns about the inaction.
Kobayashi said she wants to put Hawaiian Waste on her April committee agenda to ask, among other things, whether it's time for the city to consider canceling its contract.
Meanwhile, Hawaiian Waste has a new president in Mike Chutz, who replaced longtime president and chief executive Jim Hodge. Chutz described his Chutz Capital Partners LLC as a "very minor investor" in the waste company.
He said he's been president for about a month, and that Hodge also resigned from the board. Hodge "had a very substantial interest; he now has a substantial but less interest," Chutz said.
Steven Chang, chief of the Health Department's Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch, said his office is still looking into the possibility of fining Hawaiian Waste Systems for past violations dealing with the improper storing of the waste.
The company began storing shipping containers of waste on neighboring properties several months ago without first getting approval from the Health Department.
According to Steinberger, up to 23,000 tons of baled trash sits in containers on the three parcels.
Chang said the company has taken steps to bring itself into compliance by, among other things, hiring a pest control company to deal with an insect problem that was drawing complaints from other tenants in the industrial park.
The city has agreed to Hawaiian Waste's request to drop the amount of trash being sent to the company's baling facility from 300 tons a day to 200 tons a week until shipping commences, Steinberger said.
The city contract calls for the company to accept a minimum of 100,000 tons annually, for which the city is to pay $99 a ton. The City Council set aside money in the current year's operating budget to meet the contract, but the city doesn't have to pay Hawaiian Waste until it receives a receipt from the Mainland landfill showing the garbage has been deposited.
Given that the clock began running last Sept. 28, and the company has no more than 23,000 tons baled, "it'd be kind of difficult to meet that obligation," Steinberger said.
If Hawaiian Waste cannot meet its annual minimum, the contract calls for the company to pay the city $99 a ton for every ton it falls short, he said.
Chutz said it's too early to comment on whether the company would be able to meet its obligation. He is expected to fly to Honolulu this week to discuss more details with city officials.
"We really want to do the right thing by the citizens, by the government and by everybody involved," he said. "We're all determined to somehow come to a resolution that is in the best interest of everybody."