Shipping trash poses little ecological risk, study finds
As several Hawaii counties consider shipping trash to the mainland to lessen the load on landfills, a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that hauling a portion of the state's trash poses no significant danger to the environment.
The environmental assessment completed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said counties may ship trash to Washington state, Oregon and Idaho as long as they abide by certain regulations, including tightly wrapping the waste, to avoid spreading pests and harming marine life.
The state may ship a maximum of 500,000 tons on no more than 100 trips a year to the mainland, the report said. Trash going onto the tugboats must be tightly wrapped and baled for at least five days before heading out to ensure that all pests will have died because of a lack of oxygen, the report said. A trip across the Pacific Ocean on tugboats take about 12 to 18 days, the report said.
Finding ways to dispose of the state's trash has been a major concern for county leaders as landfills start to fill up.
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann has proposed shipping 100,000 tons of Oahu's waste at a cost $5 million as early as next year to lessen the burden going to the island's only landfill, at Waimanalo Gulch. The Hawaii County City Council has also considered shipping trash as a part of its solid-waste solutions.
The report said there are 23 species of marine mammals in Hawaii waters but ruled that there is little potential for collisions to occur because the tugboats operate at such slow speeds, with averages of about 7 to 9 mph.
It also said noise coming from the tugboats would have little impact because surveys have shown that mammals do not react strongly to slow-moving vessels.
The report also found that should fuel and oil spills occur, they would be short-term events because the spills would evaporate quickly and tugboats do not require a large quantity of fuel to travel.