Richard Ha writes:
I'd like to share with you a letter to the editor I submitted to the local newspapers. It's about the recent County Bill 256. I wrote about it here. The bill passed, but then was vetoed by Mayor Billy Kenoi. Tomorrow the Council meets and will discuss trying to override the veto.
I wrote this letter because I think it's very important to have a solid base of facts to start off with. We need to give ourselves some time to really think about these issues, in order to make good decisions.
I remember so clearly what Kumu Lehua Veincent told me early on. He said, "What about the rest?" And that's what I think is so important here. Oil prices are rising, and there are plenty of people just barely getting by with high electricity rates and other, related, rising costs. We need to worry about the rest.
I feel strongly that the County Council should not override the Mayor’s recent veto of geothermal bills before we understand the issues better.
Even the homeowners’ association in Leilani Estates, a subdivision near Puna Geothermal Venture, supports the Mayor’s veto. We agree we must take a systematic and scientific look at the situation before making far-reaching decisions.
Did you know?
No scientific study done anywhere in the world, ever, has shown that hydrogen sulfide levels such as exist in Puna produce the negative effects anecdotally claimed by some.
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) comes primarily from chemical and bacterial action in the earth. Bacteria even produces hydrogen sulfide in the human gut.
In Hawai‘i, we monitor for two different levels of H2S.
1) The Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) regulates H2S at "nuisance levels,” which is defined as what one can smell. The human nose can pick up the H2S smell at about 5 parts per billion.
2) The Office of Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulates H2S "safety levels." According to OSHA, it’s safe for workers to spend 40 hours per week around H2S when levels are at or below 10,000 parts per billion. This is far, far below levels considered unsafe (which are measured in parts per million, not billion)
Some other facts:
• Many millions of people around the world spend their vacation time and money on health spas and onsens that use water heated via geothermal action. During these vacations for health and well being, they are exposed to levels of H2S much higher than Puna residents have experienced in 99.99 percent of their time in Puna.
• Ambient levels of H2S in residential Rotorua, New Zealand, are routinely 100 to 1000 times higher than the level our DOH regulates for.
• In personally observing Iceland and the Philippines’ geothermal operations, I was interested to note that Hawai‘i is much, much stricter about regulating hydrogen sulfide.
• Even the “blowout” at PGV that happened some years ago was within OSHA’s safety levels. OSHA’s permitted H2S exposure – up to 10,000 parts per billion for eight hour days, five days a week – is the equivalent of 2800 ppb continuously over 24 hours, indefinitely, and this is about what was detected at the perimeter of PGV during the "blowout." The long-term, ambient H2S average in Puna, near the geothermal facility, is closer to 2 ppb.
• The Hawaii State DOH has said that there are no health issues related to emissions of H2S at PGV.
We need to base our decisions and laws on the facts, not unsubstantiated fears.
Hamakua Springs Country Farms