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Plant Workers Whisteblow on Hū Honua's Unethical Coverup of Chemical Spills


Click on the video above to watch the interview with a gutsy ironworker whisteblowing on the Hū Honua chemical spills.

BACKGROUND INFO: Several members of the iron workers union made a surprise appearance at a Nov. 14 Dept. of Health hearing on whether to issue wastewater discharge permits to Hu Honua Bioenergy on the Hamakua coast. At the hearing, the iron workers said that an enormous amount (around 60,000 gallons) of a dark green chemical has been released off the cliff line at Pepeekeo. Hu Honua president Warren Lee “assured” the media it was citric acid and that it was an accident and less than 7,000 gallons. But the workers said that it was intentional and that toxic chemicals are regularly released off the cliff in a hose that is camouflaged so as not to be noticed. The reason they regularly release the chemicals off the cliff is because it’s too expensive to dispose of them legally.

Jake Muise, a resident of Pepeekeo happened to hear about the giant spill on Nov. 10 and went down to the Hu Honua front gate the morning of the spill to investigate. He asked the employee there if there had been a spill, and if it was safe to take his kids fishing. They employee said yes, it was safe, and no, there had not been a spill. Jake then asked that he call his manager on the phone to confirm. The manager confirmed: no spill. It was not until the whistleblower ironworkers news became public that Jake discovered that the shoreline had actually been extremely toxic and that Hu Honua made a policy of lying to the public.

At the DOH hearing on the following Wednesday, the iron workers brought samples of the chemical. It was dark green, not the white color of citric acid, which is what Warren Lee said the substance was. According to the iron workers, Hu Honua management threatened to fire anyone who spoke up about the chemicals that are dumped into the ocean through the hidden hose.

In the mean time, Hu Honua and Dept. of Health had arranged for DLNR to conduct a study of marine life in the ocean floor. The study took place on Nov 14 and 15 -- only four days after Hu Honua’s giant toxic chemical release. Why they had waited so long to conduct this study makes no sense, considering the plant is slated to open in only one month. They should have taken the study before construction began, in order to get a good baseline result of what the marine life is like in its unmolested state. The reason they waited so long is because they felt the public pressure from the hundreds of opposition letters they have been receiving.

The iron workers informed us that such spills have been taking place for months. Because of this, and also because the marine study took place less than a week after the spill, the Pepeekeo fishermen are concerned that the study results will not represent an accurate baseline. By making the “normal” baseline be a marine environment that has already been subject to numerous chemical releases, it gives Hu Honua much more latitude in the amount of chemicals they could legally continue to release. The baseline studies should have been conducted before construction began releasing contaminants into the ocean.

When Troy Sakihara at the DLNR Aquatics Division was called on Friday Nov. 16, he said that he and the dive team who had conducted the marine study were not aware that there had been any kind of spill or dumping that had taken place only four days before their assessment. He was also not able to explain why they weren’t made aware of the spill by DOH or anyone of this key fact.

The really scary part about all this is that at the public hearing, the Dept. of Health “assured” us that if Hu Honua were granted their permits, the permits stated that all enforcement would be done through Hu Honua’s SELF-MONITORING!! The even scarier part is that, even after the iron workers came with the dark green chemical samples, Dept. of Health still maintained that relying on Hu Honua’s self-monitoring would protect the health of our families and our environment!

Several people had come to testify at the public hearing because they had gotten sick from swimming down current from Hu Honua, at Honolii over the weekend. These people had never heard of Hu Honua, but someone had posted flyers at the beach announcing the public hearing as well as the chemical spill, and they immediately suspected a connection between the toxic spill and their diarrhea and other symptoms. Other testifiers saw dead fish at Honolii after the spill and came to the hearing to report that as well.

WE CANNOT REMAIN SILENT OR WE WILL PERMANENTLY LOSE OUR NATURAL RESOURCES FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS! If you already sent in a testimony, kala mai, but it's time to send in another. They need to receive an AVALANCHE of emails before the deadline of 11/21 -- this Wednesday. We cannot EVER accept this as "normal.”




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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