Mālama Hāmākua is a group of community members on Hawaiʻi Island and beyond who seek to protect the health of Hawaiʻi Island's Hāmākua coast and her people.

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WHY TESTIFY?


The Dept. of Health will be heard testimonies about the permits being considered. Two relate to wastewater disposal and a third to ash recycling.

FIRST PERMIT is: Application for an Underground Injection Control (UIC) Permit to operate.  This is a permit to operate injection wells, because of the water that will be used for cooling the electrical turbines, that will have added chemicals and will be heated up, before being injected into the aquifer. It will be injected into the geologically unstable cliffs at the rate of 21.6 million gallons per day, or 15,000 gallons per minute.

SECOND PERMIT is: National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) application and draft permit to discharge storm water (for the discharge of stormwater running off the edge of the cliff)

 

THIRD PERMIT is:  Solid waste permit application for the recycling of ash - MORE INFO ON THIS SOON

 

We encouraged everyone to ask for the NPDES Permit for the Injection Wells, especially in written testimony.  Also why was there no EIS?  How did the Clean Air Permit pass?  In addition to the aquifer and marine life, what about Greenhouse Gases and climate change, how the Dept. of Health is handling that here appropriately, as that is their responsibility? 

WHY HU HONUA SHOULD APPLY FOR AN NPDES PERMIT FOR THE INJECTION WELLS AS WELL AS FOR THE STORMWATER


Hu Honua and the Dept. of Health feel that the stormwater discharge will impact the ocean but the injection wells will not impact the ocean. That’s because, whenever an entity impacts the coastal waters of the U.S., it must apply for an NPDES permit (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit), as per the federal Clean Water Act.

As long as Hu Honua takes the view that the water from the injection wells will not impact the ocean, then they will be able to operate the injection wells without having to conform to the strict federal environmental protection laws of the Clean Water Act by being required to apply for an NPDES permit.

Hu Honua originally intended to mix the cooling water with the stormwater and let it fall over the cliff. However, when they realized that they would be required to apply for the strict NPDES permit, they made the decision to build three injection wells and say there would be no impact on the ocean, even though the wells are only 80 feet from the cliff-line above the ocean.

 

We demand specifically an NPDES permit for the Injection Wells, not just any permit. It is the NPDES permit that requires Hu Honua to go through the stringent Clean Water Act regulation and oversight that we need.  The reason an NPDES permit should be required is because there is a hydrological connection between the injection wells and the ocean where the water will ultimately be discharged.


PROBLEMS WITH THE PERMIT TO OPERATE UIC (UNDERGROUND INJECTION CONTROL) WELLS:
Hu Honua will cool their turbines with brackish water that is drawn out of the aquifer and injected back in. Before cooling the turbines, the water will be treated with reverse osmosis to remove the salinity (saltwater). If they do not return the salinity to the water before injecting it into the ground, it will kill the coral when it emerges in the ocean seabed, since freshwater kills coral. If the water that is discharged is too hot, it will kill the coral. If they try to cool the water by diluting it with fresh-water, the overabundance of fresh-water could kill the coral. These factors of temperature and salinity are of equal, if not more, danger to the coral than the hazardous chemicals that will be added to the injected wastewater. The chemical pollution from Hu Honua’s injection wells combined with the heat of
the water would be devastating for the nearshore ecosystem and the sensitive marine and other organisms. 

The main problem with these wells is that there have been NO STUDIES of the geology to determine the nature of the flow, salinity and temperature of the water as it is discharged from the wells. That is what an EIS is for! Hu Honua and Dept. of Health are making determinations based on computer models without any scientific data on the unique geology and hydrological conditions of this area.
This is completely irresponsible to the citizens of Hawaii.

Though we have no recent data, we do have EPA records from 1994-2004, when this same facility was operating as Hilo Coast Electrical Company (HCEC) using a different energy source. Coral mortality occurred in 2004 in the vicinity of HCEC's discharge point for heated water.

The difference between the cooling water discharged by HCEC and that proposed to be injected by Hu Honua is that HCEC discharged at the surface of the water. This enables cooling and dilution to take place before the heated water made contact with the corals on the benthic seabed. By contrast, the Hu Honua water will be discharged from the seabed, making direct contact with the coral ecosystem. It is absurd and preposterous for these injection wells to be permitted to operate with absolutely no scientific studies or EIS being conducted!

Hu Honua must reduce the temperature of the heated wastewater before injection to the UIC, as per Hawaii Administrative Rules 11-54-9. What technologies are commonly available for reducing the temperature of thermal pollution like Hu Honua's?

 

In addition, the DOH should determine that Hu Honua’s underground injection control wells will be a point source for which an NPDES permit is available. Hakalau Beach Park and Kolekole State Park are nearby. This proposed plant could threaten public health and access to clean, safe ocean water.
 


CONCERNS ABOUT DRINKING WATER
Norris Uehara, the supervisor of the Safe Drinking Water Branch UIC Program, states that Hu Honua’s injection wells are no threat to our drinking water. He rationalizes that our drinking water is protected because the drinking water wells are at least ¼ mile mauka of the injection wells. Because groundwater flows from mauka to makai, there is the assumption that no backward flow would transport
the contaminated water from the injection wells uphill to mix with the drinking water.

However, Hu Honua never identified the correct aquifer (Hakalau) to the DOH, nor the outer limits of nearby sources of drinking water, nor the outer limits of the water sources drawn from by other potable water wells in the neighborhood. Does DOH have sufficient information to even issue a permit to operate the UIC wells?

Mr. Uehara’s assurances also contradict a statement based on Warren Lee’s August 21, 2018 letter to Darryl Lum, the Supervising Engineer of the Clean Water Branch of the Dept. of Health. In the letter, Mr. Lee stated that the injected wastewater may be slowed down in reaching the ocean, due to sediment and other geological inconsistencies within the aquifer. One can presume that these
sorts of geological obstructions could very well lead to the sort of backward flow that Mr. Uehara said was impossible.

If, as Mr. Uehara asserts, the groundwater is flowing so quickly that no backward flow will take place and thus contaminate our drinking water, then how is it that the groundwater is also moving so slowly that it can cool down sufficiently before reaching the ocean so as not to kill marine life? This is a key question, and the answer should be supported by scientific data. One cannot have it “both ways.”

The hazardous chemicals that Hu Honua intends to add to the water before injecting it include morpholine, carbohydrazide and sodium nitrate, which carry manufacturer’s warnings against mixing in waterways or aquatic ecosystems. To release these and other chemicals into our groundwater – when the manufacturer’s warnings specifically advise strongly against it – is an irresponsible act of the highest order.


AQUIFER OVER-DRAW
According to Mark Gordon, CHMM (Certified Hazardous Materials Manager) Environmental, Health and Safety Manager for JM Decker Group, Hawaii, draining too much water out of the aquifer could affect sustainable use of this water over time. This coincides with very real concerns of residents in the immediate area who draw from wells for their water, and who feel the Department of Health has been heeding only the desires of wealthy mainland investors, and not the needs of local people whose taxes support our government agencies. 


UNSTABLE CLIFFS
Another serious matter concerning the injection wells is the extremely unstable geology of the cliff, where landslides are common, such as the ones that took place during Hurricane Lane. (See  https://www.hakalauhome.com/cliff-failures.html ). Given the unstable nature of the cliff, it is an act of sheer negligence to allow for millions of gallons of water per day to be injected only 80 feet from the cliff line. The dangers are even more obvious when one examines the recent studies that show that injection wells cause earthquakes (See  https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2018/08/30/how-energies-companies-set-off-earthquakes-miles-away-their-waste-
dumps/?utm_term=.761374eb7495
).
 


PROBLEMS WITH THE STORMWATER DISCHARGE (NPDES PERMIT #S000557) OUTFALL #3 SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THIS PERMIT
Here is a huge oversight: Of the several stormwater outfalls being considered for this NPDES permit, Outfall #3 is not included. Yet, stormwater that is discharged from Outfall #3 will have sheeted over the south side of the site where Hu Honua has spread highly contaminated soil containing arsenic, manganese, copper and other contaminants. These contaminants can be absorbed into the body through bare feet, and uptake by fish.

The original source for the contaminated soil were the settling trenches near Outfall #3, used by Hilo Coast Electrical Company (HCEC). This was where HCEC would collect water that had been used to wash down the site of the highly contaminated flu ash byproduct. The water would seep into the soil, leaving the concentrations of heavy metals contaminants in the settling trenches. Hu Honua dug up this highly toxic soil and spread it over the area around Outfall #3. Any stormwater coming off Outfall #3 would likely contain these contaminants, and for this reason, Outfall #3 should be included in DOH’s consideration of Hu Honua’s application for NPDES
permit #S000557.

In fact, according to a federal 2013 Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR), high sediment loads were found in stormwater at this site. The DMR also referred to an earlier study conducted in 2005 by the Dept. of Health by the Hazard Environmental Emergency Response (HEER) team that also found stormwater to be contaminated.

Another serious problem with Outfall #3 is that it is broken and drainage is uncontrolled. It can be deduced that this continual sheet flow with each rain weakened the cliff, which is why it collapsed during Hurricane Lane, right at Outfall #3 (see photo below).