Monday, November 17, 2008


A HOLE IS NOT TO DIG: One of the results of the defeat of JoAnn Yukimura in the mayoral election is that the idea of a garbage-to-electricity incinerator remains on the table at least as far as the administration of Mayor-Elect Bernard Carvalho is concerned.

But whether that sits well with the new county council- who will make the final decision- is up for grabs.

The council still hasn’t signed off on the R.W,. Beck study that recommends a waste-to-energy (WTE) incinerator-as we discussed in June- but that hasn’t stopped Carvalho from declaring “we have a plan and we need to follow it”.

The Beck report doesn’t make clear how the competing schemes it now contains will work. Originally the plan called for the incinerator only. But the council asked Beck to go back and include a plan for a massive recycling effort including curbside pickup and moreover a “MERF”- Materials Recovery Facility- where the whole trash stream goes through a sorting process to remove the recyclable and reusable materials.

The problem is that it really is a one or the other situation especially because it’s doubtful the waste stream on Kaua`i is really big enough to support a “waste- to energy” facility even with the whole trash stream, including recyclables.

It especially doesn’t make economic sense when viewed with an eye toward “economies of scale”. Unlike say, Honolulu we just don’t create enough trash to make the costly pollution spewing facility work here- and even more so after ¾ of the stream is taken out for recycling and reuse..

Those issues are unaddressed in Walter Lewis’ column in the local paper this Saturday which attempts to start fabricating the bandwagon leading to an incinerator.

He couches the issue of the facility as one of that “would result in significantly lower electric rates on Kaua`i.” but ignores the cost of the facility itself and how we would feed the beast.

And in today’s paper is a letter from another Princeville resident seemingly ready to jump aboard Lewis’ bandwagon- destination: Fool’s Paradise.

Well who can blame them? Because it’s doubtful that Princeville is on the list of possible sites for the plant. Which raises the question of just where would this monstrosity- which has a price tag some have estimated at more than $125 million- be situated?

Given the fact that Kaua`i county has been trying to find a place for a new landfill for the last 20 years without success the real question is whether there is going to be one community saying “give us the dump” and another town that will “accept” an incinerator- even if we start paying them off like we’re doing in Kekaha, as we discussed last month.

The article in last Friday’s newspaper hardly did justice to the breadth of the issue in covering last week’s contentious council meeting regarding the $650,000 bribe to Kekaha to get them to stop complaining about the dump that’s being expanded there

Although it pointed out how the county and the community had apparently settled their differences over the county trying to control the process for deciding how to spend the money, what it left out was the fact that the $.65 million was a low-ball figure according to outgoing Councilmember Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.

“We originally wanted to start at a million” and that wasn’t even “nearly enough” she told those gathered for last week’s council meeting saying a million dollars was a low-end figure that the council had asked be included in the mayor’s budget. But when the Baptiste administration only offered $100,000 she said the $650,000 figure was “a compromise... for now”.

She said the payment is just a start and only for this year. She said it didn’t make up for 50 years of “putting up with” the landfill nor did it pay for “inconveniences” over the next who-knows-how-many years until a new dump is opened and the Kekaha one goes through the 30-year EPA mandated process of closing a landfill.

And of course this is just for a dump that already exists. The real question is how much “hush” money taxpayers are going to have to come up with to get a community to put a new one in their midst and what the yearly payments for that one will be.

And of course the same can be said about an even more disgusting incinerator because although trucks rumble up to each one, the rubbish stays in one place with a dump while an incinerator spews poisons all over the place.... and yes, even the new “EPA approved” WTE incinerators do that.

How many millions- or perhaps tens of millions- are we talking about? And for how many years? And in how many places?... once the trend starts what other types of facilities like power plants – or even windmills or solar farms- will require pay-offs.

The issue of payments aside and concentrating just on the cost, the whole WTE idea makes little sense. Our only hope might be something Carvalho- in his inimitable “I’ll lead the people by doing whatever they say they want me to do” way- said during the statewide TV debate.

“Maybe we’ll even ship it out” he told viewers when challenged as to the whole landfill siting, recycling waste-to-energy/incinerator debate.. right after he committed to the WTE in the Beck “plan”.

And although he was grasping at political straws, even a broken clock is right twice a day and Carvalho verbally stumbled onto the only sensible cost effective way there is to deal with our waste as we detailed last June.

Using a Zero-Waste program’s principles we can require curb-side recycling, set up a MERF to separate the rest and ship the last small amount- estimated to be a high of 30% but a low of less than 10% of our waste stream- and ship it to any one of a number of landfills in the mainland-northwest that are ready, willing, able and in fact eager to take it off our hands.... all at a comparable cost to what we are paying today

For a small island to ship-in virtually all of it’s consumer goods and then, when we’re done with them, bury them in the ground is insanity and unsustainable.

Though there is a line of thought that sending a community’s trash to a far away place is ecologically irresponsible- as former Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura has stated- that is a concept that might be appropriate where regional landfills are widely available and goods are grown and manufactured nearby, not on an island that imports all it’s “stuff” from 2000 miles away..

To throw that stuff in a hole in the ground makes the least ecological sense of all.

“Ship it in-ship it out” has got to be our garbage future. And apparently if we all demand it, the broken-clock-born program will be instituted before the one that’s ticking on our solid waste crisis strikes midnight and we’re overrun by mice and rotten pumpkins.

No comments: