The April 30 indictment of Waste Management of Hawaii Inc. and two of its officials shouldn’t have an impact on its lifetime contract to run the West Hawaii landfill or the current selection process for a waste-reduction facility to replace the Hilo landfill.
A federal grand jury in Honolulu returned a 13-count indictment against the company, General Manager Joseph Whelan and Environmental Protection Manager Justin Lottig. They are charged with multiple felonies, including knowing violations of the Clean Water Act, conspiracy and making false statements to the Hawaii Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The charges stem from the 2010 overflow of large amounts of medical waste, including blood vials, syringes and catheters, raw sewage and sewage sludge, from Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill into coastal waters. The Honolulu City Council is looking into whether it should terminate its contract with the environmental management giant, according to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser report.
The company denied the allegations in a statement, saying, “We believe there is no basis for these charges by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and we intend to vigorously defend against this extraordinary action.”
Assistant Corporation Counsel Kathy Garson told West Hawaii Today that Waste Management’s contract with another county shouldn’t affect its ongoing contract with Hawaii County. Waste Management is about 20 years into its contract for the life of the Puuanahulu landfill, with contract extensions following the first 30 years of the original contract.
“Waste Management of Hawaii Inc.’s contract with the county of Hawaii for the operation of its landfill on this island is not affected by the recent indictment of the company and its two managers,” Garson said. “However, we are certainly continuing to monitor the situation on Oahu.”
The company is also in the running for Hawaii County’s newest waste project, an as-yet undefined waste reduction facility. Wheelabrator, a wholly owned subsidiary of Waste Management, the parent holding company of Waste Management of Hawaii, is one of the eight companies responding to a request for proposals to build the multimillion-dollar project, company officials confirmed. The county is in the process of culling the responses to the top three, and next month is expected to send out the second phase of the solicitation to those select companies.
Hawaii County officials declined to talk about the ongoing RFP. But state procurement law limits those placed on a debarment or suspension list and prohibited from public contracts to those who have been convicted of crimes, not just charged with crimes.