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County bags deal for Hawaii trash

Junk headed to Roosevelt


The Enterprise

One key solid waste contract is now in the bag, and Klickitat County officials already have their eyes on yet another deal.

Klickitat County Commissioner Rex Johnston said on Monday that the county's landfill in Roosevelt has landed its long-sought contract to bring in municipal waste from the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii -- and is still in pursuit of a similar deal with the city of Vancouver, British Columbia.

"We got the contract with Hawaii," Johnston said. "We're supposed to be getting shipments soon. They will be shipping it over to Longview, and it will be shipped by rail from there to Roosevelt."

The multi-year contract, with Hawaiian Waste Systems, was signed in August. The agreement will bring about 100,000 tons of trash per year to the county's regional landfill, and the county will receive a little over $3 per ton for accepting the waste.

"Three dollars per ton is our host fee," said County Commissioner David Sauter. "That's a $300,000 annual payment to the county."

Johnston said the lack of infrastructure on the Columbia River at Roosevelt prevented barges coming directly to the county's landfill from Hawaii.

"We wanted to offload it at Roosevelt, but we don't have the facilities," Johnston said.

He explained that to construct docking infrastructure would require shoreline permits and an environmental impact study, which would take time and money.

"The long-term plan is to barge it to Roosevelt, but in the interim, it will come in by ocean-going barge to Longview and be trans-loaded to rail," Sauter said.

Johnston added that he believes the shipments from Hawaii will continue until that state can come up with another form of disposal, such as incineration.

"It can't be cheap for them to ship it over here," Johnston said.

Despite the costs, being able to send waste shipments to Klickitat County will ease the pressure on the island of Oahu -- which has only one municipal landfill.

However, Oahu officials pointed out that the shipments are temporary -- they are expected to end once a new boiler is operational at a "waste-to-energy" power plant on the island. That project is expected to be completed by late 2011 or early 2012.

The transfer process calls for the trash from Hawaii to be compressed and sealed in bales weighing three tons each. The bales will then be left to bake in the sun for a specified period of weeks to ensure no possibly invasive pests could remain alive.

"They can't have yard debris or prunings, that's prohibited; and there's no hazardous waste," Sauter said. "There is a strict compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

Johnston said the county's overall landfill revenue has been down about five to seven percent from last year -- but may be starting to rebound.

"Construction waste has been down due to the poor economy," Johnston said. "Lately, it's started up; the levels are starting to come back. It could be construction starting back up."

Johnston also noted that "special waste" streams -- such as the dredge spoils the landfill is currently getting from Puget Sound -- are helping the county maintain its income.

Klickitat County took in about $8 million last year from its regional landfill at Roosevelt.

"We rely on the revenue from the landfill. Any decrease hurts all of us," Sauter said. "One of the chief economic drivers in the county is the landfill."

With a contract for Hawaiian trash now "in the bag," the county is looking further ahead to a deal with the city of Vancouver in Canada.

"The contract under consideration would be for five to six years, perhaps longer, and it would be for 500,000 tons a year," Johnston said. "We've expressed our desire for the contract. All the commissioners are in full support of accepting the material here. We're doing everything in our power to get it, but there is definitely competition for it."

Sauter added that the county is also hoping to land contracts with King County and the city of Seattle in the near future.

"Their landfills are nearing capacity, and we have excess capacity," Sauter said. "We're talking big dollars. All told, King County and Seattle produce about 1.5 million tons of solid waste per year. That could be $4.5 million annually. If we can get even a portion of that, it would be a huge help to the county."

The owner of the landfill at Roosevelt is Republic Services, Inc. Republic merged with Allied Waste in December 2008, forming one of the largest trash collection/recycling companies in the United States.



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