Richard Ha writes:
I testified against County Bill 256, draft 2, which alters the geothermal royalty funded-Geothermal Relocation and Community Benefits program, takes away community benefits, and creates a one-mile "buffer zone" around the Puna Geothermal Venture plant.
It passed, though. Now it is up to the Mayor to sign it or not.
This bill is premature. I don't believe we have come to grips with the facts about the true nature of hydrogen sulfide, and what its dangers are or are not. We need to take a step back and evaluate the issue more thoroughly.
Hawai‘i's Department of Health (DOH) regulates H2S at "nuisance levels," which are defined as "what you can smell." The human nose can pick up the H2S scent at 5 parts per billion or so.
The Office of Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulates Hydrogen Sulfide to "safety levels," which they define as 10,000 parts per billion. At this level, workers are allowed to work for 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week.
Here are some things to consider:
1) Around the world, several million people every year choose to go to health spas/onsens, where they are exposed to much higher levels of H2S than any member of the public has been exposed to for 99.99% of the time in Puna.
2) Ambient levels of H2S in downtown Rotorua, New Zealand, are routinely 100 times to 1000 times higher than the levels Hawai‘i's DOH regulates for.
3) OSHA allows H2S exposure as high as 10,000 parts per billion for eight hour days, five days a week. That's the equivalent of 2800 ppb continuously over 24 hours, indefinitely. Whereas the long-term, ambient H2S average in Puna, near the geothermal facility, is closer to 2 ppb.
4) No study done anywhere, ever, has shown that Puna's exposure levels have ever produced the negative effects that are antecdotally claimed.
5) I've been to Iceland and to the Phillipines to see their geothermal operations, and have learned that Hawaii is much, much stricter about regulating Hydrogen Sulfide than those countries are.
Here is the testimony I submitted against County Bill 256, draft 2:
Aloha Chair Yagong:
I recommend that the council vote no to Bill 256, Draft 2 affecting Puna homeowners. Take the time to truly understand the issue. It needs to be scientifically based. The Leilani Estate Board is against this bill.
The Dept. of Health regulates to a much higher standard than Iceland or the Phillipines. We do not allow open venting.
The Dept. of Health says that there are no health safety issues with PGV. It regulates to "nuisance" standards. This standard is an order of magnitude greater than "health safety" standards.
H2S generally results from two main sources--organic material from bacterial action and chemically from interaction of magmatic material. Tens of thousands of oil and gas wells on the mainland deal with H2S everyday.
The bacteria that generates H2S also live in the gut of humans. The human nose can pick up H2S to 5 parts per billion--the same level that the Dept of Health regulates to.
There have been testimony that people have become dizzy and disoriented and that animals have been affected. But, at levels this low, it is difficult to identify exactly where the H2S originated. I believe that we need to take a step back and look at this very methodically.