Feds to approve waste shipping from Hawaii to Washington - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Feds to approve waste shipping from Hawaii to Washington

Tim Steinberger Tim Steinberger
Todd Apo Todd Apo

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

Just weeks after being slapped with state fines Hawaiian Waste Systems will secure its federal permit tomorrow.  But the company hired to send Oahu's trash to the mainland may still face an uncertain future.

Even with final federal approval coming tomorrow it's still almost impossible for Hawaiian Waste Systems to meet the terms of the contract with the city which would mean millions in losses for the company.

The gates at Hawaiian Waste Systems facility at Campbell Industrial Park are still locked up, but that could change as early as tomorrow.  USDA spokesperson Larry Hawkins says the agency will release the Finding of No Significant Impact or FONSI tomorrow.  It essentially gives the environmental all clear. As soon as Hawaiian Waste signs a compliance agreement it's cleared to ship the waste.

There have been several environmental assessments conducted since 2006. The most recent one began in June.  As to why it took so long, Hawkins said the government had to research every plant, animal, atmosphere, railway, highway, and shipping lane between Hawaii and the landfill in Washington and it had to work with various federal agencies to do it.  Then it had to wait for the public to view the documents and respond to the comments.

"I would say that given this is the federal government that was very quick," said Tim Steinberger, Honolulu Environmental Services Department Director.

The city is happy the step is finally cleared but questions still remain for Hawaiian Waste Systems.

"What is their next step? Are they ready to go? Do they have all their other permits in place? Do they have their business agreements in place? And when can they start shipping? So that's the next question and its best posed to HWS," asked Steinberger.

The city didn't reach company officials today.  Neither did we.

But we know Hawaiian Waste is already storing 20,000 tons of trash at its facility.  To meet the conditions of its contract with the city it has to collect another 80,000 tons by September 28.  That's 125 days from now.  But Steinberger says by permit the facility can only take in 500 tons a day.  So even at max if they started tomorrow, 125 days multiplied by 500 tons would be 62,500 tons.  The company would still be more than 17,500 tons short of the agreement.  Per the contract Hawaiian Waste would have to pay $99.83 per ton they're short, which would mean more than $1.7 million in penalties.

"I'm still concerned about whether or not this is going to move forward. HWS still has to make that business decision as to whether they'll move forward or not," said Steinberger.  "If they're not able to meet their 100,000 tons which I would say at this time would be almost impossible to do they would be subject to those penalties in the contract."

"We've run through these deadlines and they've come and gone before so I think as someone else said we're going to wait until we actually see it," said Todd Apo, Honolulu City Council Chair, who is a supporter of shipping trash and still hope it works.

"I don't think any solid waste solution has been easy and this one clearly hasn't either, but if it's a safety net for our H-power system it's much better to have a shipping option than to try to find a new landfill on this island."

The USDA says it informed Hawaiian Waste today that the documents would be published tomorrow. 

Once shipping begins federal inspectors will monitor their work in Hawaii and Washington.

More about this story on HawaiiNewsNow.com:

Health Department cites company over unshipped trash

Council differs on response to trash shipping delays

Oahu's trash still waiting to be shipped out

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