County may resume hauling east garbage west

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Three years ago, former Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann quipped that his constituents would throw him under the wheels of the first truck hauling East Hawaii garbage through their community.

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Three years ago, former Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann quipped that his constituents would throw him under the wheels of the first truck hauling East Hawaii garbage through their community.

The County Council at the time unanimously passed a bill, sponsored by then Chairman Dominic Yagong, to prohibit disposal of trash from Hilo and Puna in the West Hawaii landfill at Puuanahulu.

But a bill now making its way through the County Council would undo that.

Sponsored by Hoffmann’s successor, Councilwoman Margaret Wille, Bill 100 would give the Environmental Management Department director flexibility to send waste, except compostables and recyclables, from any transfer station to either the Puuanahulu or Hilo landfill under certain conditions.

Garbage could be sent to either landfill to avoid penalty fees, to meet designated minimum volumes to qualify for discounted fees or when repairs or improvements are being made at one of the landfills. Under current law, the mayor, during a time of declared emergency may, by executive order, direct the transportation of materials from a transfer station to a landfill as deemed practicable and necessary.

A “pilot study” by the Department of Environmental Management in 2012 caused outrage in West Hawaii and resulted in the ban. Rubbish trucking proposals had been a contentious issue for island residents for years, and the revelation a pilot project was ongoing came days after Mayor Billy Kenoi told West Hawaii residents the county had no plans to transport the trash.

Wille said she’s been talking with her constituents and they seem open to the idea of cross-county hauling, provided it saves the county money.

“If anybody’s opposed to the trucking, it’s people in my district,” Wille said Tuesday.

But she said raising the amount of garbage going to the West Hawaii landfill, which is run by Waste Management, from its current 290 tons per day to 300 tons per day would save $60,000 to $70,000 in tipping fees monthly, or about $1 million annually.

The bill, which received a favorable 7-0 recommendation in the Environmental Management Committee, was embraced by Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd and Environmental Management Commission Chairman Thom Randle.

“I personally support it,” Randle said, “and I would be very surprised if there would be a negative vote from the commission.”

The commission plans to vote on the bill at its Oct. 28 meeting in Hilo.

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Hoffmann, who is running for mayor, said he understands Wille’s wish to save taxpayers’ money. But calculations of landfill savings also have to factor in the cost of trucking the garbage across the island, he said.

“We can’t be so hard and fast forever on some of our ideas that we can’t see the need for change,” Hoffmann said Wednesday. “It’s a dynamic situation and I think it calls for innovations and I think this may be one.”

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