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No penalty for trash backlog


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POSTED: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A private company that has been stockpiling shrink-wrapped bales of Oahu garbage while it works out plans to ship the material off island does not face any immediate sanctions, a state Department of Health official says.

Steven Chang, chief of the Health Department's solid and hazardous waste branch, told City Council members yesterday his staff has investigated complaints stemming from the bales of garbage at land adjacent to the Hawaiian Waste Systems baling facility in Campbell Industrial Park in West Oahu.

“;We're evaluating our enforcement options. ... It's something we'll have to discuss internally,”; Chang said.

Chang testified before the Council's Public Infrastructure Committee on a proposal to audit Hawaiian Waste Systems over its inability to ship the trash. The City Council deferred the audit proposal but asked the parties to submit more information on trash shipping practices in other cities and on what led to the backup on Oahu.

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“;Knowing what might be best practice—that might help us avoid a situation where there could be some public health issues,”; said Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, who introduced the resolution.

Hawaiian Waste Systems reached an agreement with the city in September to temporarily ship up to 100,000 tons of solid waste off island each year at a cost to the city of $100 per ton.

The company had planned to haul the trash to dump sites in Washington state but has run into permitting snags preventing it from carrying out the contract.

Hawaiian Waste Systems originally intended to barge the trash all the way to a landfill in central Washington, but unloading waste onto ports along the Columbia River to ship by train or truck saves four to five days, company President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Hodge said.

The change in shipping method triggered a new review of the environmental assessment.

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If the new permit is not challenged, the company has said it could begin shipping by mid-February, said Tim Steinberger, city director of environmental services.

While the permitting issue is worked out, the trash that has been diverted by the city to Hawaiian Waste Systems' baling facility has been stockpiling at an adjacent plot of land.

Chang said Hawaiian Waste Systems has all the proper permits for its baling facility, but storing the trash at the adjacent land requires another permit.

Although there have been some complaints about odor, Chang said the bales appear to be wrapped and stored properly.

Chang noted that inspectors had found numerous gnats at the baling facility, but Hawaiian Waste Systems complied with an order to take care of the problem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.