Waste not - Page 2

City officials delay garbage contract decision while they seek more information

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The entrance to Recology's recycling center at Pier 96, which the city is considering expanding
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SARAH PHELAN

Records show the port reached out to DoE in 2009 with a letter that identified rail (but not barging) as an environmentally sustainable mode for moving waste from the city to its next landfill site.

In a June 23, 2009 letter to the DoE, Moyer and David Gavrich, president and CEO of the SF Bay Railroad (SFBR), stated that "rail directly from the port can not only minimize environmental impacts, it can provide an anchor of rail business for the port and a key economic development engine for the Bayview-Hunters Point community and the city as a whole."

Recology's trucks currently collect and haul about half the city's waste to its recycling center, which sits on port-owned land at Pier 96. After the recyclables are offloaded for processing, the trucks haul the rest of the garbage through the Bayview and back onto the freeway to Brisbane, where it is loaded onto bigger trucks that haul the trash over the Bay Bridge each night to WM's Altamont landfill near Livermore.

"It would seem most efficient to not double- or triple-handle the waste but to put it directly onto rail at the port instead," Moyer and Gavrich wrote in 2009. "Collection vehicles could then go directly back out onto their routes, reducing time, fuel, emissions, and traffic impacts."

The pair noted that SFBR and its affiliate Waste Solutions Group have used rail to haul more than 2 million tons of waste directly from the port in the past 15 years, using gondolas and 12-foot high municipal solid waste (MSW) containers on flat cars. They included an aerial photo showing Recology's central recycling facility at Pier 96 and the extensive rail infrastructure and barge options that surround the facility.

But DoE never got back to them, Gavrich recalled last week as he fired up a SFBR locomotive and rode the rail tracks that crisscross the 20-acre port-owned facility that lies between SFBR's outfit, Recology's Pier 96 recycling facility, and the bay that is currently home to idle barges and rail cars that sit rusting a stone's throw from the economically depressed Bayview.

"All that's needed is two to four acres for an excellent transfer station," Gavrich said. "Barge and rail access could not be better. It's just waiting to be developed."

In February, DoE officials told the Budget & Finance Committee that they had looked into and rejected barging as an option. But it turns out they did not conduct an official study. "There hasn't been a study to date," DoE's Assmann said March 7, when the Guardian requested DoE's barging report. "We had a discussion about it, but no formal policy."

Assmann noted that DoE asked waste management companies that bid on the city's landfill disposal contract to include a barging option. "But nobody did," Assmann said, referring to Recology and Waste Management, the two finalists in the city's landfill disposal contract bid process.

Assmann said DoE is currently doing a long-term study into three transportation and facilities options for waste using port facilities: the first option would involve moving the entire infrastructure for waste and recycling to the port. The second would be to use the port as a transfer facility for garbage, and truck, barge, or rail haul garbage from the port. The third would involve barging recyclables only from Pier 96.

Assmann notes that the majority of infrastructure for the city's waste system is at Recology's Tunnel Road facility on the San Francisco-Brisbane border, a situation he claims would make it impossible to design, permit, finance, and build new facilities at the port before 2015.