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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 7, 2010

Council steamed as trash keeps piling up

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu City Council members are renewing their call for the Hannemann administration to cancel its contract with Hawaiian Waste Systems after the company was fined $40,400 by the state Health Department yesterday.

"I would say it's time to throw in the towel," Councilman Ikaika Anderson said. "Enough is enough."

The company began accepting trash from the city for shipment to the Mainland on Sept. 28 but has yet to send a barge off Kalaeloa Harbor. The most recent holdup has been Hawaiian Waste System's inability to obtain clearance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ship trash to the Mainland.

Hawaiian Waste president Mike Chutz could not be reached for comment late yesterday.

Shipping trash to the Mainland was seen as one way O'ahu could deal with refuse that is piling up at the city's Waimānalo Gulch landfill, O'ahu's only municipal landfill, near Kahe Point along the Leeward Coast.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who heads the Council Public Infrastructure Committee, said she wants city attorneys to brief her committee behind closed doors on any talks taking place between Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administration and the company.

"Even if they get out of this, I don't see how they can ship at the same cost after they've incurred so many other charges," she said.

The Health Department said the company is being fined for:

• Storing wrapped but exposed waste bales at its Oihana Street packing facility for too long. The company's permit allows it to store bales up to 15 days during normal operations and up to 45 days if there is an equipment breakdown.

• Storing shipping containers of the trash on two nearby Campbell Industrial Park properties without permission to do so by the Health Department. One is across Oihana Street; the other is on Komohana Street.

Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger last month estimated more than 20,000 tons of trash are being stored at the three sites. Besides the fine, the Health Department wants Hawaiian Waste to take corrective action.

Steven Chang, branch chief for the Health Department's Solid and Hazardous Waste Branch, said yesterday that Hawaiian Waste still does not have DOH approval to store the waste at the two alternate sites.

Hannemann administration officials declined to comment yesterday.

At a Public Infrastructure Committee meeting on Tuesday, Deputy Environmental Services Director Manny Lanuevo and Deputy Corporation Counsel Gary Takeuchi said representatives of the city and the company are in negotiations, but gave no details.

The city recently stopped delivering trash to Hawaiian Waste at the company's request. The company's contract calls for shipping up to 100,000 tons of trash annually to a landfill in Washington state.

But the company, which says it has invested more than $10 million on its Campbell facility, has run into a number of difficulties, including the city's initial refusal last year to grant the contract after it said the company had not met procurement specifications.

More recently, the biggest stumbling block has been the company's inability to get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to transport the trash via barge from Kalaeloa Harbor to the Port of Longview in Washington, and then by train to Roosevelt Landfill.

Hawaiian Waste originally said it would begin shipping in October, but has postponed the start of shipments at least 10 times.

Anderson said the Hannemann administration "has tried its best to provide the council with answers. But the administration is not Hawaiian Waste." At this point, he said, "I would really hope that the Hannemann administration strongly consider canceling the contract."

Anderson acknowledged he was one of those who criticized the administration for foot-dragging in awarding the contract to Hawaiian Waste. "I regret I was wrong on that," he said.

Kobayashi said she's been approached by vendors who said they rented shipping containers to Hawaiian Waste and have not been paid.

The city appropriated about $10 million for the contract, which calls for the city to pay $99.89 for every ton that's actually placed in a Mainland landfill. City officials said the company gets no money from the city until it shows proof that the trash has been placed in Mainland landfills.