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Big Island geothermal plant cited by EPA

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:06 p.m. HST, May 13, 2014

<br /><br />Puna Geothermal Ventures<br />Puna Geothermal Ventures, which produces 38 megawatts of electricity at its plant in Kilauea's east rift zone, has not yet decided on whether it will bid on a contract to supply more geothermal power to Hawaii Electric Light Co.<br />

HILO, Hawaii >> A geothermal plant on the Big Island has been cited by the Environmental Protection Agency for 14 violations, accused of failing to properly maintain and monitor its operations.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday that 10 of the violations had already been corrected as of 2010.

A spokesman for the geothermal plant, Puna Geothermal Venture, said the company disagrees with the EPA's findings but can't yet comment more specifically.

"We are working on a response to the report," said Mike Kaleikini, the plant's senior director of Hawaiian affairs. "Our ongoing commitment is to be above and beyond the regulatory requirements."

The EPA said in a letter to the plant last month that it had failed to take some necessary steps to prevent releases, but generally operated the facility well.

The agency said the plant doesn't always follow its schedules for maintaining and testing its geothermal wells.

The agency's findings came from an August inspection. The EPA said the plant's monitoring habits may not detect small leaks around well casings.

"Thus, the (monitoring program) provides almost no assurance that a casing leak will be detected in the early stage of a failure," the EPA said in its report.

The agency said it also found no records of certain equipment being recalibrated even though it should be done monthly.

When asked whether the report supports the notion that the plant tries to go above minimum requirements, Kaleikini said: "They (the EPA) can disagree. They are the regulatory agency but that's our position."

The plant has until the end of June to respond to the accusations.

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cojef wrote:
EPA is tough, they thrive on fines for violations. They have to justify their existence and pay for their keep. Bonus fund for the executives, like the VA executives who fudged the numbers to get bonuses, while a host of veterans met early death.
on May 13,2014 | 02:43PM
Slow wrote:
Actually the EPA is nothing whatsoever like the Veterans Administration. What is puzzling to me is why a report based on an August 2013 visit lists 14 violations, 10 of which were corrected in 2010. So that leaves 4. All appear manini. We need alternative energy sources and geothermal would seem to be exactly that. I truly hope a safe, well-run geothermal plant can provide a substantial portion of the island's energy. Still, it is loud and smelly and safety and health concerns are the reason my wife and I moved to another part of Puna.
on May 13,2014 | 03:04PM
HanabataDays wrote:
I'm guessing they're talking about SO2 leaks outside the well casings, and that the issue might not be so much the testing "habits" as the testing "equipment". SO2 point-source measurements aren't that simple to make. Field measurements of SO2 are tricky in almost every case (see HVO's daily eruption updates, which always contain a disclaimer). That hydrothermal fluid is pretty acidic, so it's easy to see how casing leaks could develop. It'll be interesting to find out more details.
on May 13,2014 | 03:05PM
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