Maintenance problems at H-POWER results in long lines, delays at city landfill

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maintenance problems at the city's H-POWER plant in Kapolei are forcing the city to divert the majority of the trash it collects to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, resulting in hours-long delays at the Windward Oahu dump.

Drone videos and other photos taken by garbage haulers over the past two weeks show truckers lined up for more than half a mile, waiting to dump their loads. Drivers we spoke with said they're frustrated by the long delays.

"How long have you been waiting?" asked Hawaii News Now.

"About two hours," responded one refuse hauler.

The city says it's working to fix the problem.

"For the commercial haulers and homeowners, I can't apologize enough. We're just as frustrated," said Lori Kahikina, director of the city's Department of Environmental Services.

Those long waits at the landfill are translating into additional overtime money that trash haulers will have to pay their workers - additional expenses that are passed on to consumers and taxpayers.

"Whether you are a taxpayer or you are a private business, it still means you're going to pay for that, because they gotta haul the trash," said environmental watch-dog Carroll Cox.

Normally, the vast majority Oahu's refuse that can't be recycled is burned and turned into electricity at the H-POWER plant. But for the past two weeks, the Kapolei plant has been operating far below demand.

Kahikina said that the plant's newest boiler and turbine were sidelined recently due to regularly scheduled maintenance.

But two weeks ago, the plant's other turbine went down. Covanta, which is contracted by the city to operate the plant, tried to divert the two remaining boilers to the remaining turbine, but then one of those boilers ran into maintenance problems as well, forcing the city to divert trash to the landfill.

And we're talking about a lot of trash - usually, the city sends about 250 tons of trash a day to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, but because of H-POWER's problems, it's now sending anywhere from 500 tons to 1,500 tons per day.

"When the diversions first started, the lines were horrendous, three to four hours," said Kahikina. "It went down to two hours and just today, about an hour ago, it was maybe 45 minutes."

The city said Covanta hopes to fix the problem by next week.

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