Honolulu trash shipping cleared by USDA
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
The proposal to ship trash to the Mainland got federal approval yesterday, but it's still uncertain if it will happen.
Hawaiian Waste Systems received the OK yesterday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to transport O'ahu's waste to a landfill in Washington state.
Whether the embattled company can follow through on its contract with the city is not clear.
The federal OK comes eight months after Hawaiian Waste officials had originally said they would ship the trash.
The company has been beset by a number of setbacks, including the long-delayed USDA clearance. As a result, the company asked the city to stop delivering trash to its Campbell Industrial Park baling facility and was fined $40,400 by the state Department of Health for storing waste at two off-site properties without permits. There are about 20,000 tons in shipping containers on the three sites.
City attorneys have been meeting behind closed doors with Hawaiian Waste officials over the issue. Both sides have declined to say what's being discussed.
City attorneys met privately in executive session Tuesday with the council Public Infrastructure Committee for about an hour. When they emerged, chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said she could not reveal the substance of discussions.
"The negotiations are still going," Kobayashi said.
Hawaiian Waste officials were not available yesterday and city officials had little comment.
Tim Steinberger, the city's environmental services director, issued a short statement: "We are in discussions with HWS about resolving the status of the contract, and until those discussions are completed, we don't think it's appropriate to comment publicly."
DELAYS IN PLAN
Council members have expressed growing frustration about the contract. Some, including Kobayashi, said it's time for the city to consider either canceling it or ending it in some other manner.
Hawaiian Waste chief executive Mike Chutz, who is based on the Mainland, could not be reached for comment.
Hawaiian Waste Systems has been collecting garbage from the city since Sept. 28 and was expected to begin shipping it to the Mainland in October. The plan was halted while the company waited for U.S. Department of Agriculture approval.
A "finding of no significant impact" was published in the Federal Register yesterday. That cleared the way for a compliance agreement between the USDA and Hawaiian Waste to be approved by federal officials.
"The compliance agreement is completed and once signed by HWS, they may begin work," said USDA spokesman Larry Hawkins.
Shipping trash to the Mainland is one way the city hopes to cut down on garbage going to the Waimānalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill, the only facility on O'ahu that accepts municipal solid waste. Hawaiian Waste's contract calls for shipping up to 100,000 tons of trash annually to a landfill in Washington state.
Even if Hawaiian Waste were to proceed with shipping, it's uncertain the company could fulfill its obligation with the city.
The contract calls for shipping 100,000 tons a year for up to three years, depending on when the third boiler is completed at the city's H-Power waste-to-energy facility.
But the company is only permitted by contract to accept a maximum of 500 tons a day.
For every ton out of the 100,000 annually that Hawaiian Waste does not ship, it must pay the city just under $100. The city is supposed to pay the company $100 for every ton placed in a Mainland landfill. The city does not pay Hawaiian Waste until it receives a receipt that the trash has been placed in a landfill.