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Hydrogen sulfide release reported from Puna Geothermal plant

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Hawaii County Civil Defense issued an alert from an uncontrolled release of hydrogen sulfide steam at the Puna Geothermal Venture plant in Pohoiki.

At about 8:15 p.m., civil defense officials said emergency crews were responding and plant operators are working on controlling the release and monitoring the emissions at the controversial lower Puna geothermal plant.

Residents in the area of Leilani Estates and and Pohoiki Road were advised to remain indoors or to evacuate the area if they experienced any discomfort.

“We lost transmission lines, so the plant couldn’t deliver any of the electricity,” PGV spokesman Mike Kaleikini said. He attributed the the lines going down to high winds.

Kaleikini said the plant has to shut down whenever there is a loss of transmission because pressure builds up. The plant releases some steam to relieve the pressure buildup to protect its equipment, he said.

“We trained and prepared for this kind of bad weather,” he said, adding the plant is responding appropriately.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. spokeswoman Rhea Lee confirmed at 9:30 p.m. Thursday that the transmission line that serves PGV was out.

Pahoa High School was already open as a storm evacuation shelter. Civil Defense officials said it was available to those who wished to leave their homes.

He said the naturally occurring steam is dangerous due to the heat and the company is cognizant of what is in the steam.

“We have taken everything seriously and we make sure our guys are safe,” Kaleikini said. “That translates into the community being safe.”

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