Health Concerns Stall Recycled Waste Plan

Kenny Huy
Kenny Huy
Rodney Kim
Rodney Kim

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Controversy surrounds Honolulu's new solid waste processing plant at Sand Island.

Sludge is what's left after waste goes through sewage treatment. It used to be trucked to Oahu's landfill, but now it can be made into fertilizer pellets for golf courses and farms.

The problem, just like sludge, the pellets are also going to the landfill.

This nearly $40 million dome-shaped plant is called a digester. Sludge is pumped in, 20 days later tiny pellets come out. Less sludge is now dumped at the landfill.

"In terms of weight we decreased it by about 66 percent. This rolloff bin is about 10 tons and before pelletizing you would send 15 per week to the landfill," said Plant Manager, Kenny Huy.

Five containers of pellets go to the dump each week.

But that wasn't what the city bargained for. Synagro, the plant operator was supposed to sell the pellets as fertizlier and the city would share in the profit. But so far the Health Department has said no.

"The city would benefit from the free fertilizer. 20-thousand tons a year would make the entire island green. The issue was one of health, whether these pellets can't be completely sterilized otherwise it's useless as fertilizer, " explained Sand Island Business Association Director, Rodney Kim.

Plant managers believe the fertilizer will be popular once they are allowed to sell it.

But for now it's nearly all going to the dump.

"It's interesting now that they are in operation and the Department of Health says wait we are not going to let you distribute this so where are the pellets going? To the landfill," concluded Kim.

The Health Department is allowing customers to use the pellets on a trial basis. The rest go to the landfilll.