HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The City and County of Honolulu owns seven front-end loaders for trash pick-up, but only one of them is currently working, which has resulted in significant delays in several residential areas, especially in west Oahu.
"All I can do is profusely apologize to them. The main cause of the delay is we have seven of these front -end loaders on island -- currently six of them are offline," explained Lori Kahikina, Department of Environmental Services Director.
Trash is scheduled for pick-up at Kulana Knolls every Monday, but no one showed up this week and residents say this wasn't the first time.
"We don't even get phone calls saying that they're not going to make it and it's been like that for a year and a half now," explained Pua Edayen, Kulana Knolls' office manager who oversees all 248 units.
"I believe there's only three [front-end loaders] that they have at the Pearl City yard that covers from Aiea to Waianae, and apparently, a week and a half ago, three of the trucks were broke down. Nobody had rubbish picked up," said Edayen.
Edayen says the consistent delays are causing rodent infestations and health hazards.
"Not only owners, tenants, children -- they can get sick because, you know, the rubbish overflows it goes on the road and even when the trash guys come in and pick up the rubbish they don't get out of the truck and pick up the ones that are on the road," described Edayen.
Kahikina says it'll cost them $13,000 to hire contractors and an additional $400 in staff overtime just to catch up with this week's delays. She says the city's working as quickly and efficiently as possible to fix the six of their seven trucks that are broken.
"This past year, the Mayor did put in his budget to order more front-end loaders but Council denied it, so that's why it's frustrating for everybody, but I'm hoping they have patience with us," explained Kahikina.
City and county officials admit there are still delays with bulky item collection as well, but say residents who abuse the service by setting out trash when it's not scheduled for pick-up is a key factor.
"Literally as soon as it gets picked up, if it looks clear and there's space they start filling it up," described Garrick Chang, pointing to a pile on Makiki Street that he says started growing about a week ago, even though collection for the area isn't for another two weeks.
Chang says it's a major safety concern because most of the time you can't even see the fire hydrant that's there.
"Normally that's only exposed for, maybe a couple of days before it starts to get buried under trash and rubble. It's an ongoing problem," explained Chang.
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi says the city needs to establish a set of standards and criteria to determine who should be eligible for free city pickup.
"We're trying to make it so that the average resident doesn't have to pay for trash pick-up -- extra for trash pick-up-- but with multi-family units maybe we'll have to look at having them pick-up through a private hauler," said Kobayashi. "Things are getting tough now, so we have to watch our pennies and we have to draw lines as to who gets pick up and who has to hire private companies."
Kobayashi says the Council has tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill that would charge residents for trash pick-up, as they do in other Hawai'i counties and on the mainland.
"We're a population of nearly a million people and trash pick-up is such a problem and we want to do it as efficiently as possible, but it may be that we're not going to have enough money to continue this," explained Kobayashi.
Kahikina says the city is working to fill 23 positions for its Refuse Division, which will cover both regular trash pick-up and bulky item collection. In the meantime, the Department of Facility Maintenance says four front-end loaders should be up and running by Thursday morning.