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Firm ready to ship Oahu's trash


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POSTED: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Seattle-based company has all the parts in place to begin shipping Oahu's trash to the mainland — with or without a city-approved contract.

Whether Hawaiian Waste Systems can proceed legally is expected to be resolved today, when the City Council considers a resolution that would allow private companies to annually ship up to 150,000 tons of solid waste off island.

Private shipping would be allowed for five years or until either the city approves a contract for waste shipping or when a third boiler is operational at the city's HPOWER plant to accept more trash for conversion to energy.

The city Department of Environmental Service has opposed the resolution, saying it could interfere with the city's “;flow control,”; which determines what waste goes to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, what goes to HPOWER and what would be shipped away.

Allowing private companies to ship trash off island could leave the city without enough trash to fulfill its contract of providing 570,000 tons of trash per year to HPOWER.

“;(The department) will take whatever actions are necessary to preserve flow control on behalf of the city taxpayer,”; Tim Steinberger said yesterday in a statement released through his office.

Even without the resolution, some members of the Council say they believe Hawaiian Waste Systems may proceed.

“;I think this resolution helps,”; said Council Chairman Todd Apo. “;That was the whole reason for it — so that we set forth the city policy that we're willing to let this happen on a limited, private basis.

“;Obviously, from a business standpoint, there are risks of moving forward without a resolution.”;

Councilman Charles Djou, who like Apo is an attorney, said he also believes James Hodge, chief executive officer of Hawaiian Waste Systems, can begin shipping. “;If he doesn't have this resolution, I still think he can ship, but it might be a more hazy part of the law and it might wind up in litigation,”; Djou said.

The company already has built a $10 million processing facility on Oahu, based on the city's acceptance last year of its bid to provide the shipping service for Honolulu.

But last month, Hawaiian Waste was notified by the city that its winning bid had been rescinded because the company had been “;non-responsive”; in getting proper permits and for prematurely constructing a weigh station at its Oahu processing facility, raising questions about who would control the flow of trash.

Hodge said the company has no problem with turning over flow control to the city.

Hodge protested the city's rescinding of the bid, but that protest was denied and he now is appealing to the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

“;I'm going to send the mayor a letter saying we're going to start, and say, 'If you guys can get around to awarding this contract, we will then accept all the terms and conditions of the contract,'”; Hodge said yesterday.