Yakama Nation opposing plan to import Hawaii's garbage

A Washington company is about to commence shipping garbage from Honolulu to a Washington landfill near the Columbia River. Hawaiian Waste Systems, a Seattle-based company will ship 150,000 tons of waste from Honolulu to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill. The process has apparently dragged on for years and sparked controversy across the Pacific.

But the Yakama Nation, which has treaty rights to fish in the Columbia River, is continuing to raise protests over what it considers “exotic” garbage that could contaminate the region.

Yakama Chair Harry Smiskin says the federal government is obligated by treaty to consult with the Yakamas about anything that might adversely affect the land around the landfill, which the tribe ceded to the U.S. in 1855. According to Smiskin, the tribe is concerned that “imported” rodents from Hawaii could contaminate the groundwater and river, while Hawaiian fruit flies could decimate farms on the reservation, which lies about 50 miles north of the landfill.

Environmentalists have raised similar concerns—which the USDA eventually discounted after multiple reviews over five years. In May, the USDA gave Hawaiian Waste the go-ahead but suspended its approval earlier this month after inspectors found tears in the plastic covering.

Hawaiian Waste Systems president Mike Chutz pointed out that the tribe had an opportunity to comment when the USDA was conducting its review, but waited instead “until the very, very last minute to exercise its right” to be consulted.

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