Federal government withdraws trash shipping permit opposed by Yakama

Honolulu, Hawaii (AP) August 2010

The city’s plans for dealing with tens of thousands of tons of solid waste have been thrown into turmoil after a federal agency revoked a permit to ship some garbage to Washington state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision, first reported Monday night by KITV, may have sounded the death knell for the controversial, on-again, off-again plan to ship as many as 100,000 tons of garbage annually from Honolulu to a central Washington landfill.

The Seattle-based company that contracted with the city to do that, Hawaiian Waste Systems, already is storing several hundred plastic-wrapped garbage bales in a West Oahu industrial park. Neighbors have frequently complained about the stench.

“I think it’s going to be increasingly difficult to ship our opala at this point,” acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell said during mid-August, using the Hawaiian word for trash. “I think we have to look at other ways to deal with it.”

Caldwell said in a statement that city officials and Hawaiian Waste systems were negotiating a resolution.

“However, these negotiations are confidential in nature so the city cannot disclose any details at this time,” he added.

There was no response to requests for comment from Hawaiian Waste Systems and the USDA.

The garbage shipping plan has met one hurdle after another. The company began accepting city trash in September with the expectation that it would begin shipping the next month. Instead, bales have been stacking up at the company’s compound and stored in shipping containers.

The latest stumble stemmed from concerns raised by the Yakama tribe, which earlier this year sued the USDA in an attempt to block the shipments. The tribe, which owns land next to the Roosevelt, Wash., landfill, said it was concerned about invasive species hitching a ride from Hawaii and causing agricultural or environmental harm.

The bales were to arrive at a Longview, Wash., port and then be transported by truck or rail to their destination.

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order last month effectively blocking the first shipment. A hearing is set for Aug. 30 in Yakima, Wash.