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.

© 2023 by Make A Change.
Proudly created with Wix.com

SAMPLE TESTIMONIES

Below you will find text of submitted testimonies, feel free to copy and edit as desired. Also, on the page labeled Hearing-Topics you can equip yourself with knowledge on the hearing issues.
 
Email to cleanwaterbranch@doh.hawaii.gov 

In the subject head, write: Hu Honua Wastewater Discharge Permits 

Address the testimony to Department of Health Clean Water Branch 

Please include your FULL NAME and place of residence in your testimony, or you risk having your testimony thrown out on technicalities. 

And, if you like BCC/email  malamahamakua@gmail.com to add your testimony to our Sample Testimonies page

 


Big mahalo to everyone who came out to give oral testify or come for support (or simply to learn more about the issue) on Wednesday, November 14!

People power works! Since nearly 70 people signed up for oral testimony and not everyone got to speak, the DOH decided on the spot to extend the deadline for another week to submit online testimonies.

Written statements will be accepted until 5:30 pm on Wednesday, November 21, 2018, at
cleanwaterbranch@doh.hawaii.gov    OR
P.O. Box 3378, Honolulu, Hawaii 96801-3378.

 

 

TESTIMONIES:

These are specific to the upcoming Nov. 14 2018 Public Hearing, See our Community Voices page to hear more from our affected communities!

FROM: Mark Tang
 

Subject Testimony: Hu Honua Scam!

Message First, as per the requirements of this hearing: YES! To the need for both NPDES and UIC permits. But even more important is the obvious need for a complete Environmental Impact Study wherein the worst aspects of this scam may finally be revealed. Second, residents must consider how in the world such a scam can have persisted thus far and for so long. This project is WRONG on all accounts - it is WRONG in the times we are living through and committing to (Climate Change is bearing down now!), it is WRONG in its place - being our scenic but highly fractured coastline, it is egregiously WRONG by a process that allowed certain 'connected' insiders to fix an outcome favorable to outside investors over and against the expressed local disapproval, and perhaps worst of all, it is WRONG from any comprehensive economic accounting sense (including environmental 'externalities') in that it saddles Hawai'i island taxpayers AND Hawai'i island rate payers with a 'white elephant' that costs more today (twice the cost of competing solar farms) and even more into the future than anyone is willing or even capable of admitting. Essentially, John Kanaka Public is being made into a two-time loser! All the while ensuring that public loss and environmental squalor, our debit, is being papered over as a credit to rich investors living abroad! We don't have to take it this dirty deal. We demand better!

FROM: Maya Parish
 

I am a resident of Hawai’i Island and a teacher, yet I feel I must also be a scientist in order to stand up against Hu Honua, which is so clearly a terrible project, because our elected and appointed officials are not doing their jobs of protecting us residents and the natural environment of Hawai’i for future generations. The more science I study on this particular project, the more concerns I have. I am concerned about the egregious draw on the Hakalau aqua of 21 million gallons per day in order to cool Hu Honua’s systems. I am concerned that this water will then be tainted with hazardous chemicals and then injected back into our unstable sea cliffs through underground injection wells so close to our shoreline that this heated and tainted water will surely flow directly into our nearshore marine environment and have devastating effects on the coral and other marine life. I oppose the permit for underground injection wells. The shoreline is public and it is clear that a full Environmental Impact Statement is needed for Hu Honua to assess the full implications of this project, certainly before granting permits for these wells when scientific studies have not been conducted. It is clear that an NPDES permit is needed for these injection wells, not just a UIC permit, as this is the official position of the U.S. government regarding the Clean Water Act. I am concerned about drinking water, and the contradictory statements made by Norris Uehara, the supervisor of the Safe Drinking Water Branch UIC Program, and Warren Lee, Hu Honua’s president. Mr. Uehara stated that Hu Honua’s injection wells are no threat to our drinking water as groundwater flows mauka to makai, so there would never be backflow of the contaminated wastewater from Hu Honua into our drinking water source, yet Lee stated that the injected wastewater may be slowed down in reaching the ocean, due to sediment and other geological inconsistencies within the aquifer. It seems then that these sorts of geological obstructions could very well lead to the sort of backward flow that Mr. Uehara said was impossible. Water is life. It is not just, as we often call it, a “natural resource”, it is the source, and without clean water, we won’t have life. This dangerous gamble with this source that is so precious seems so crazy to me - I simply don’t understand it. I am concerned about the NPDES permit for the discharge of stormwater over the cliff - from what I understand, Outfall #3 should be included in this permit where there is concern about contaminated soil, and Outfalls 1 and 2 are on public state land, yet Hu Honua hasn’t applied for easements to use our public land in this way. In this time when we have just heard from the U.N. report that we have 12 years before climate catastrophe, to consider opening a power plant that would spew 300,000 tons of greenhouse gasses per year when solar and battery storage is getting more and more economical and feasible and simultaneously abuse our groundwater and ocean in this way is insanity. We as ratepayers will be ripped off by this power plant - it makes absolutely no sense. Our community does not want this power plant. Our community is begging you, our elected and appointed officials who are charged with protecting and serving us to do your jobs and protect and serve us.

FROM: Shannon Matson
 

As Vice Chair of the Hawaii County Democratic Party, I am here representing our over 14,000 members. The number 2 item on our Legislative Priorities in our State 2018 Platform is environmental protection, including preventing harmful chemicals from entering our marine environment and finding truly sustainable and renewable energy sources. 

Let me start with something positive- in July of this year, Hawai'i banned oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that are present in many sunscreens, that have been scientifically proven to be hazardous to reef health. This is a clear sign that the people of Hawai’i care about our reefs enough to put pressure on our legislature to get this ban passed. This was a ban that happened relatively quickly, in comparison to the usual snail's pace bills take when navigating through our legislative process. This is an example of progress and environmental forward thinking happening in 2018! This is in stark contrast to the issue at hand. 

Now, let me get straight what Hū Honua is proposing- what a horribly offensive cultural appropriation of a name, by the way, not only does it mean “to come of or from the land” as they claim on their website, but it can also mean a rapid or immense swelling or rising up. Which I think they are just about to see the beginning of now…as they try to greenwash this project through. I digress, back to their own website - their number one guiding principle: “rate payers come first”- which is why they will be charging us double what TRULY renewable energy (such as solar) costs? or does that mean they will be compromising the rest of their so-called principles to meet their bottom line? 

Next is Jobs- well I can’t argue with that, except…at what cost? What good are more jobs when the cost of energy rises and quality of life and health goes down? We can’t drink our jobs when our wai is dirty and we can’t eat money when our kai is filled with dead fish. Also, they are proposing only about 30 long-term jobs, after construction is complete, with no explanation of compensation or benefits or promise that the jobs will be open to local residents.

Next- “one hundred percent clean, renewable energy”- this company cannot possibly provide the amount of power it is claiming it can, at the cost it can, without significantly and negatively impacting the environment. They promised the PUC  that they would generate 200,000 MW per year AND keep discharged water adequately cool to prevent reef damage or harm to other marine life. They are also saying they would only be producing an average of 18.75 MW per day to keep water cool before discharge…the math doesn't add up. The cliffs are unstable, they will be adding to erosion. They will be overdrawing from the aquifer. There is potential for drinking water contamination. There is even higher potential for chemicals (JUST AS UNSAFE AND HAZARDOUS AS THE OXYBENZONE THAT OUR LEG JUST BANNED) that are used to help cool the water before discharging, will contaminate our oceans. They will be BURNING trees. This will add to our carbon emissions. What about all the gas used to truck the trees across the island? Calling ANYTHING they are proposing an example of renewable and clean energy is absolutely a complete and utter lie. This all ties directly into their final claim of “being a good neighbor”- I don’t know what qualities you look for in a neighbor, but if that neighbor suddenly began driving huge trucks by your house multiple times a day, started burning huge amounts of wood, compromising your air quality, your peace and quiet, your road access, your ocean, your drinking water, and your food supply, would you consider them a good neighbor? 

To consider approving this facility without an NPDES permit is both negligible and reprehensible. Because of the impact this facility will have on our community, and in essence, the entire island an EIS must also be required before even considering moving forward. There are many unanswered questions and the answers don’t look good for Hū Honua’s bottom line. Our community absolutely demands forwarding thinking solutions, that protect and provide for reef health and sustainability and protection and preservation of our shared resources of land, air, and water. Mālama Hamakua.

FROM: Sonny Kelly
 

As a concerned resident of the Hamakua coast, I feel that this power plant is completely illogical because a photovoltaic system would cut the cost of electricity by half what it is now and the utility could still make plenty of profit… Most of the infrastructure is already in place so it seems like a no-brainer to switch over now. The plan is it is involves five giant logging trucks EVERY HOUR going down the Hamakua coast(Will it be worth it when a logging truck takes out a family in a minivan?)..and clear cutting 5 ACRES per day creating landslides and reef habitat destruction Possibly the biggest threats are the dioxins in the smoke being released into our air (which cause cancer)and the chemicals they use in their injection wells going straight into the ocean because the water in the aquifer moves like underground river from the mountain to the ocean. The heated chemical-laden water will adversely impact the reef and all marine life and of course fisherman and surfers and the dioxins Will permeate the entire island and build up around our home, causing numerous health issues in humans and animals. 

FROM: Michelle Williams
 

Denuding our forests? Polluting our water? Increasing Hawai’is emissions in the wake of the UN report on the immediacy of the need for climate action?

This proposal is the polar opposite of the directionHawai’is energy policy must take. It is yet another example of decision making made for the profits of few, who are not even part of the community of Hawai’i new but offshore investors, at the expense of our natural resources, people and identity. Leaders in Hawaii keep selling us, and the ‘aina, out to the highest bidder. WHEN WILL IT STOP? When every one of our forests is bare, and every beach too polluted to swim in, and every coral reef dead, as at Puako?

This project will change the character of Hamakua for the worst, forever.

Hawaii has massive potential for increased solar and wind energy technology. Our coral reefs are already under massive stress, our biodiversity is constantly at risk. How is burning up our forests guaranteeing any kind of sustainable energy future for our island?

This project MUST NOT GO FORWARD. There are better energy solutions that are worth investing in, not the short-term gains of a multibillionaire like Jennifer Johnson.

 

 

 

 

FROM: Seri Niimi-Burch
 

Dear Department of Health Clean Water Branch, ​​

As a resident of Hāmākua, I write this testimony to express concern over the wastewater discharge and injection well permits Hū Honua has applied for through the Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch. The activities proposed under these permits would harm marine line, aquifers, and the livelihoods of those who depend on clean water resources in their community and thus should not be granted. 

 

Hū Honua is applying for a permit to operate injection wells less than 100 feet from the cliff shoreline. Tainted wastewater will be injected directly above the aquifer, which will percolate into the water supply as well as through the porous cliffs, and into coastal waters.Hū Honua claims that the tainted water will not affect drinking water because it will be injected makai (on the ocean side) of the well that draws out drinking water. They claim the injected wastewater will travel directly downhill and won't travel uphill to mix with the water that will be drawn out for drinking.

 

When asked how they knew that the heated water would not kill marine life once discharged into the ocean, they said that, due to geological inconsistencies, the water would take time to arrive at the ocean and allow for it to cool down. 

 

In other words, when they talk about drinking water, they say the water flows directly to the ocean. When they talk about impacts on the ocean, they say the flow will be indirect. They admit that no studies have been done and that they don’t understand the geology of the cliff well enough to make a definitive conclusion, showing that talking points have been created to suit their need, rather than backed by sufficient scientific evidence. DOH should be concerned by this misinformation provided by Hū Honua. 

 

Hū Honua is also pumping close to 30 harmful chemicals into the aquifer, a concern in and of itself. 

 

Hawaiʻi deserves better than this. Our coastlines are precious and our drinking water a lifeline. If these permits are granted, the health and safety of both will be put at risk.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to raise these concerns. I humbly request that the DOH does not grant approval for the Hū Honua wastewater discharge and injection well permits. 

 

 

 

FROM: Koohan Paik-Mander
 

PROBLEMS WITH THE PERMIT TO OPERATE UIC (UNDERGROUND INJECTION CONTROL) WELLS:

 

NPDES PERMIT SHOULD BE REQUIRED FOR INJECTION WELLS, AS PER NINTH CIRCUIT COURT RULING

 

First and foremost, DOH must require, by law, that Hu Honua apply for an NPDES permit for its injection wells -- not just a UIC permit. UIC is under Safe Drinking Water Act and applies to the aquifer while NPDES is Clean Water Act and applies to the ocean. That was the whole point of the 2018 decision at the Ninth Circuit Court -- Hawaii Wildlife Fund v. Maui County. The Court told Maui County that if you use injection wells to discharge water and that water ends up in the ocean, you must apply for an NPDES permit. That is the law. 

 

After Hu Honua draws out its water from our aquifer, to the tune of 15,000 gallons per minute, the water will be desalinated before it enters the boiler where it is heated up. Hu Honua has made no plans to cool the water before injecting it into its wells. I am wondering if it has plans to replenish the salinity, since fresh water kills coral. Hu Honua plans to inject thermally polluted water of unknown salinity into our aquifer. Included in the wastestream will be a cumulative 4.32 gallons per day of hazardous chemicals. Most of these chemicals have manufacturer's labels that warn that they should not come in contact with groundwater -- yet Hu Honua will be injecting them right into the groundwater! The discharged water will emerge from the ocean floor where it will make direct contact with coral. Not only is the coral extremely sensitive, but so are the critically endangered Hawksbill turtles that nest on this coastline. The factors of temperature, salinity and the presence of hazardous chemicals, all put the marine ecosystem at extreme risk.

 

It is astonishing that Hu Honua has conducted no tests to determine the nature of the hydrology or geology in the ground where the path of the discharge water will flow before it reaches the ocean. It is shocking that no tests of any kind have been conducted as to impacts to our environment. It is shocking that an Environmental Assessment, at the very least, has not been conducted for a project of this magnitude that will have such profound effects on every natural resource available.

 

Instead of conducting research, Hu Honua and Dept. of Health have instead made determinations based on computer models without any scientific data on the unique geology and hydrological conditions of this area. This false equivalency is without merit and irresponsible to the citizens of Hawaii.

 

Though we have no recent data, we do have EPA records from 2002-2004, when this same facility was operating as Hilo Coast Power Company (HCPC). HCPC violated the Clean Water Act on several occasions during this time, resulting in coral mortality. 

 

The difference between the cooling water discharged by HCPC that violated EPA regulations and cooling water proposed to be injected by Hu Honua, is that HCPC discharged at the surface of the water. This enable cooling and dilution to take place before the heated water made contact with the corals on the benthic sea bed. By contrast, the Hu Honua wastewater will be discharged from the sea bed, 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. 

 

Hawaii taxpayers expect the Dept. of Health to follow the Ninth Circuit ruling, and require NPDES compliance for Hu Honua’s UIC injection wells. Hu Honua cannot be allowed to circumvent environmental law simply by building injection wells that happen to be less than 100 feet from the cliff line.

 

In a letter to Hawaii County Planning Director Michael Yee on Sept. 7, 2017 from Hu Honua plant manager Kevin Owen, Mr. Owen reveals that the company chose to build and operate injection wells expressly in order to avoid NPDES regulation that would protect our coastal waters. The letter says “... HHB (Hu Honua Bioenergy) identified the fact that three underground injection wells were going to be used and permits obtained in lieu of obtaining an individual NPDES permit for the non-contact cooling water that was originally intended to be discharged through the existing outfall.” This is precisely the kind of behavior that the Ninth Circuit Court stated was the reason they made their ruling -- that injection wells cannot be used as a way to get out of compliance with federal law to protect our oceans. 

 

The Dept. of Health does Hu Honua no favors by not requiring an NPDES permit for the injection wells, given the likelihood that thermally polluted water will be impacting marine life at the sea bed. Once the negative impacts are established, Hu Honua would be liable to hefty daily fines that would date all the way back to the beginning of operation. This is what happened to Maui County. Circumventing the law comes with a heavy price. Hu Honua must comply with the Clean Water Act and require Hu Honua to apply for anNPDES permit for their injection wells, as well as for their stormwater outfalls.

 

CONCERNS ABOUT DRINKING WATER

 

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. Hu Honua proposes to release a cumulative 4.32 gallons of these and other hazardous chemicals per day into the aquifer.  To release these chemicals into our groundwater – when the manufacturer’s warnings specifically advise strongly against it – is an irresponsible action of the highest order. 

 

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.”

 

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. We hope that your actions disavow that belief, by demonstrating responsibility toward our community.

 

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 uptaken by fish.

 

The original source for the contaminated soil were the settling trenches near Outfall #3, used by Hilo Coast Power Company (HCPC). This was where HCPC 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.

 

In 1981, an EPA report hypothesized that two fishermen in the Pepeekeo area who died of disease related to the central nervous system, may have eaten fish that had been exposed to manganese. Eating fish that has manganese in it can lead to neurological disease, according to the EPA report.

 

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. 

 

OUTFALLS #1 AND #4

 

These outfalls are on state land. Yet Hu Honua has not applied for any easement to use our public lands in this way.

  

HU HONUA’S PROMISE TO THE P.U.C. THAT IT WOULD CHARGE 21.5 cents/kilowatt-hour DOES NOT PERMIT IT TO KEEP THE TEMPERATURE OF DISCHARGED WATER AS COOL AS IT PROMISED THE DEPT. OF HEALTH

 

Point #1: In the Power Purchase Agreement signed with HELCO and approved by the PUC, Hu Honua is required to deliver 200,000 megawatts per hour (MWh) per year that would be sold for 21.5 cents/kilowatt-hour. In order to do this, they need to produce an average of 22.8 MWh at any given instant. In reality, that would mean they would have to produce 29 MWh every single hour 24/7 to meet the terms of the contract, because you have to add an extra 6 MWh to cover electricity used by the plant to power itself. Producing all those megawatts drives up temperatures of the boiler and cooling water.

 

Point #2: Yet in the thermal effects report, Hu Honua claims they will produce an average of 18.75 MWh per day. They say this because the less electricity they produce, the cooler the water that will be discharged directly into coral ecosystems.  However, this is problematic, because producing 10 MWh less electricity (in order to keep the water cool) does not allow them to generate the required amount of 200,000 MWh per year at the price of 21.5 cents/kilowatt-hour.

 

Conclusion: A paradox. Hu Honua promised the PUC it would generate 200,000 MWh per year. But it can’t fulfill that requirement AND keep discharged water sufficiently cool. That means that it is virtually certain that the energy plant will violate their promise to DOH to keep water temperatures safely low, for the sake of turning a profit. 

 

 

 

FROM: Mark Gordon
 

As an environmental, health and safety engineer, I believe cutting trees would damage watersheds. Logging trucks would burn fossil fuel, affect traffic safety, and increase wear and tear on already damaged roads. In addition, this could have a negative impact on air quality. In this day, when we all want to help improve our environment, I do not understand why wood would need to be burned as a source of power. 

 

There are also potential noise concerns, since some neighbors would be subjected to noise from steam releases and from startup of turbines, boilers, and well pumps. 

 

Draining too much water out of the aquifer could effect  sustainable use of this water over time.  The chemical pollution from the injection wells combined with the heat of the water would be devastating for the nearshore ecosystem and the sensitive marine and other organisms.  In addition, with Hakalau beach park and Kolekole State Park nearby, this proposed plant would threaten public health and access to clean, safe ocean water.

 

I have heard, not confirmed, that there was an illegal discharge by this facility into public waters.  If this is true, I believe more fully that a complete and accurate Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be required as well as included for public review/comment. 

 

To ensure that this project is evaluated completely and fully, please ensure that the following are required: 

  • NPDES permits  for storm water discharges, as well as the injection wells. 

  • All Federal and State air regulations are met, as well as air permit applications filed with the Clean Air Branch. 

 

Mahalo for allowing me to share my observations and concerns. 

 

Some friends wished me to share their comments, as follows:

  • Clear cutting and burning trees and burning biodiesel to generate electricity are really bad ideas, and are contrary to the objectives of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. The massive deforestation of Africa, Asia, South America and others are prime examples of the negative effects of such practices. 

  • Negative impacts include habitat, biodiversity, endangered species, climate change, erosion, pollution, increased use of fossil fuels to transport biomass, traffic congestion and degradation of highway infrastructure.

  • Wind and solar energy harvesting are much less damaging to the environment.

 

Mark Gordon, CHMM

Environmental, Health and Safety Manager,

JM Decker Group, Hawaii, 

FROM: Pablo Akira Beimler
 

Dear Department of Health Clean Water Branch,  

 

NPDES PERMIT SHOULD BE REQUIRED FOR INJECTION WELLS, AS PER NINTH CIRCUIT COURT RULING
 

As a resident of Hāmākua, Chair of the North Hawaiʻi Action Network, Climate Reality leader, and concerned citizen of the Earth, I write this testimony to express great concern over the wastewater discharge and injection well permits Hū Honua has applied for through the Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch. The activities proposed under these permits would harm marine line, aquifers, and the livelihoods of those who depend on clean water resources in their community and thus should not be granted. 

Hū Honua is applying for a permit to operate injection wells less than 100 feet from the cliff shoreline. Tainted wastewater will be injected directly above the aquifer, which will percolate into the water supply as well as through the porous cliffs, and into coastal waters. Hū Honua claims that the tainted water will not affect drinking water because it will be injected makai (on the ocean side) of the well that draws out drinking water. They claim the injected wastewater will travel directly downhill and won't travel uphill to mix with the water that will be drawn out for drinking.
 

When asked how they knew that the heated water would not kill marine life once discharged into the ocean, they said that, due to geological inconsistencies, the water would take time to arrive at the ocean and allow for it to cool down. In other words, when they talk about drinking water, they say the water flows directly to the ocean. When they talk about impacts on the ocean, they say the flow will be indirect. They admit that no studies have been done and that they don’t understand the geology of the cliff well enough to make a definitive conclusion, showing that talking points have been created to suit their need, rather than backed by sufficient scientific evidence. DOH should be concerned by this misinformation provided by Hū Honua. 
 

What particularly irks me is that Hū Honua has conducted no tests to determine the nature of the hydrology or geology in the ground where the path of the discharge water will flow before it reaches the ocean. It is shocking that no tests of any kind have been conducted as to impacts to our environment. It is shocking that an Environmental Assessment, at the very least, has not been conducted for a project of this magnitude that will have such profound effects on every natural resource available.
 

Hū Honua is also pumping close to 30 harmful chemicals into the aquifer, a concern in and of itself. The hazardous chemicals that Hū 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. Hū Honua proposes to release a cumulative 4.32 gallons of these and other hazardous chemicals per day into the aquifer.  To release these chemicals into our groundwater – when the manufacturer’s warnings specifically advise strongly against it – is an irresponsible act of the highest order. We demand clean water now.
 

Pepeʻekeo is a prime fishing location where centuries of local fishermen (and women) have relied on its abundant marine life for food sustenance and economic livelihoods. Many current fishermen are Native Hawaiian. In Hū Honua’s application for the injection wells, they absurdly answered simply “No” to the question: “Would the injection activity affect any Native Hawaiian resources or traditional cultural activity?” In Hawaiʻi, all lands and waters have cultural significance — to deem there being no significance is an assault on the Hawaiian culture on the highest order. Even more striking is that Pepeʻekeo is a very sacred site. Kūpuna from Pepeʻekeo recount that women would go to the “Red Rivers” of Pepeʻekeo to isolate themselves while they were on their periods and it was kapu for the men to be there. There is a small bay there that also served as an area where only women would fish. Pumping 15,000 gallons of wastewater per minute mixed with hazardous chemicals that create a cocktail effect that has never been studied before will inevitably reach the sea and destroy wildlife, thus stamping out a critical cultural resource. It is sacrilegious that one company can decide to eradicate a culture by turning a blind eye or simply denying that there is no cultural impact from their unjust and destructive project.
 

A note on the wildfire threat that this project poses:

Clear-cutting eucalyptus forests will not eliminate Hāmākua and Kaʻū’s wildfire situation...it can actually make it much worse. This is something I have heard over and over again from foresters that I work with -- I have been in the wildland fire management and outreach field in Hawaii for 5 years (and 3 years in California). By clearing trees without immediately replacing the canopy cover, we would be allowing much more flammable and quick-spreading grasses and shrubs/small trees to grow and create a greater wildfire threat to Hāmākua and Kaʻū. Currently, the eucalyptus forests in Hāmākua are unique in that the trees are grown so closely together that they shade each other's lower branches and leaves out, creating space between the lowest tree branches and the cane and guinea grass underneath.

 

The trees also provide enough moisture and shade to rapidly break down fallen debris. I spoke to firefighters on the scene of the moderately-sized Paʻauilo fire in 2017 who described the fire actually slowing down once it got into the eucalyptus forest because there was more moisture and the flame heights of the burning grass were not enough to ignite the tree branches. Grass fires spread quickly but are considered flashy in that they don't create enough sustained heat to burn these trees compared to a downed log, shrubbier tree or conifer, or piles of debris. This situation is much different than in Kōkeʻe on Kauaʻi, where the eucalyptus trees burn VERY well. The structure is different: trees are spaced further away. The understory is different: more shrubby and more downed logs and debris that aren't breaking down quickly. It's also quite dry during long periods of the year.
 

Which is not to say Hāmākua is not at risk of wildfire. It is a very important concern. Back in 1901, the largest wildfire in the State's recorded history occurred along the Hāmākua Coast from Oʻokala to Honokaʻa on the mauka side. It burned 30,000 acres and was the reason the State forestry department was created. The fire was a cane fire that went awry and spread quickly because cane and the other grasses/shrubs burn very well under windy conditions. More info here: http://www.pacificfireexchange.org/research-publications/category/hawaiis-big-burn-the-1901-hamakua-fire

 

The other concern would be the slash created by the logging. On November 10, highly-respected and renowned wildland fire expert, Stephen J. Pyne's explained how logging can actually be part of the wildfire problem:

 

"For members of the Trump administration, this reasoning leads to “forest management,” which they seem to equate with chainsaws. They argue that big-tree logging can be a benign (and profitable) surrogate for fire. But while all fuel is biomass, not all biomass is available as fuel. What fire wants is particles with a lot of surfaces relative to mass; it wants what a campfire or hearth fire wants. If you wish a fire to flash and roar, put in pine needles, dry grass, and kindling. Add a freshly cut green log and the fire will go out.

 

Which is to say, logging and burning do different things. Logging physically removes biomass; fire chemically changes it. Logging takes the big stuff and leaves the little; fire burns the little stuff and leaves the big. After a crown fire—a fire that flashes through a forest canopy—what remains are the tree trunks that logging would have hauled off. Removing them earlier would have lathered the land with post-cut debris called slash—exactly the kind of volatile fuel that fire favors. Slash disposal, in turn, typically means burning it, which has its own hazards for escape fires and which fills the sky with noxious smoke. Up until recent decades, the great conflagrations of American history have, with almost preternatural cunning, trailed logging and land-clearing. This is a country that is good at startups, not so great at cleaning up after itself. But that doesn’t mean some kinds of active management can’t work."

 

More here: http://www.hawaiiwildfire.org/news-center/fueling-the-fire-trump-thinks-logging-will-stop-the-burning-in-california

 

With all of these concerns taken into consideration, Hū Honua is the wrong fit for Pepeʻekeo, for Hawaiʻi Island, for Hawaiʻi, and for the planet. In an era when investments in truly carbon-free and environmentally-friendly technologies such as solar and wind — and battery storage technology is improving at an exponential rate — are at an all-time high (and prices at an all-time low), Hawaiʻi should be on the forefront of this inevitable and absolutely essential movement towards a 100% renewable and clean future. Hū Honua is a giant leap backward in time towards an era of dirty technology, short-term thinking, and disrespect of the environment and its people and culture. Hawaiʻi can show that it is a leader by rejecting Hū Honua’s greenwashing and investing in projects that significantly lower the cost of people’s bills, create more resiliency, are sustainable over eons of time, and give people a greater voice in their energy choices.  

Approving the NPDES permits for Hū Honua will be a stain in history for Hawaiʻi that will no doubt be brought up in future textbooks in chapters remarking “how did we go so off track in our fight against climate change?” The people have spoken. The ‘āina has spoken. The wai has spoken. The kai has spoken. And we are all in agreement that the DOH Clean Water Branch must take a stand and live up to its name by rejecting Hū Honua’s awful practices.
 

Mahalo for the opportunity to raise these concerns. 
 

Pablo Akira Beimler
Honokaʻa, HI

FROM: Andreea Petric
 

To whom it may concern, 

 

I write to you to request that a more detailed  Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required and included for public review/comment. In addition I will urge you to require that all Federal and State air regulations are met, as well as air permit applications filed with the Clean Air Branch and that NPDES permits  for storm water discharges, as well as the injection wells are required.  

 

I write to you as a scientist (PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia University, awarded the National Optical Astronomy Observatory Leo Goldberg Fellowship) and a parent who listens to her child’s wish that he and his peers inherit a world free of pollution in which people and their natural environments thrive together. I am detailing my science qualifications here to emphasize that I welcome practical solutions rooted in science to the current energy problem in Hawai'i. However, the proposed Hu Honua project's benefits are unclear and appear to be significantly offset by its negative impact on the fragile coral reef, the ability of people to fish for sustenance, and the divesting of resources from other technologies that have a lower carbon imprint.

 

As you are the department of clean water, I would like to emphasize that the hazardous chemicals that Hū Honua intends to add to the water before injecting it include morpholine, carbohydrazide and sodium nitrate.  While this is not my field of scientific expertise, I understand that those chemicals carry manufacturer’s warnings against mixing in waterways or aquatic ecosystems. Hū Honua proposes to release a cumulative 4.32 gallons of these and other hazardous chemicals per day into the aquifer. It is challenging to understand how this will not impact the clean water under your responsibility.

 

 

In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that “carbon neutrality cannot be assumed for all biomass energy a priori.” The report concluded that whether or not biomass is truly carbon neutral depends on the time scale studied and the management techniques employed in the areas where the biomass is harvested. “Cutting or clearing forests for energy, either to burn trees or to plant energy crops, releases carbon into the atmosphere that would have been sequestered had the trees remained untouched, and the regrowing and thus recapture of carbon can take decades or even a century. Moreover, carbon is emitted in the combustion process, resulting in a net increase of CO2.” (References: Renee Cho, Earth Institute, Columbia University, 2011, http://www.pfpi.net/biomass-basics-2)

FROM: Ed Johnson
 

(A)- A  Short Preface

Hi Norris and Joanna, we corresponded several times this past June regarding the close proximity of my Water Well to the proposed Hū Honua Injection Wells. I was assured by Norris that I very likely had nothing to worry about and that my Well water would remain clean and safe even if Hu Honua begins operations.  
 

(B)- Testimony

          After the DOH Hearing on November 14th I understand the Injection Well issue more completely and would like to submit testimony totally opposing these Wells or, in the least, DOH should require an NPDES permit for its' Injection Wells. This operation is extremely close to the ocean, near shore waters. I have farmed, lived, owned property for 33 years now within the ahupua'a of Kahua. Our farm and home and water Well is 2000 feet Hāmākua side of Hū Honua. I first wrote this in long-hand out on the tip of Alia Point where, if you look back at the high, rocky, seacliff you can see a faucet-like lateral spring pushing out clear, fresh water. I hope it stays that way.   
 

 A Neighbors Advice

         My closest neighbors, also long time residents, advised me not to bother to send testimony as they and others believe the State does not have the best interest of us residents at heart with regards to Hū Honua. I hope this is not the case and that DOH will require the proper oversight and vision to keep our waters safe from threats such as these Injection Wells.
How is it possible that an NPDES permit would not be required in a situation such as this?

Even if DOH directs Hū Honua to NOT discharge any of the long list of chemicals they are currently planning to discharge the real fear I have is can Hū Honua be trusted?
 

        Here is a quote from Tom Callis' Hawai'i Tribune Herald Story of November 15, 2018--  

"Dave Clark, a laborer from Waimea who is working at the job site, said he witnessed a “black river of water” going over the cliff into the ocean Friday afternoon, when Hu Honua officials said there was an “inadvertent spill.”
 

(Warren) Lee said the discharge, the result of a boiler flush, was unauthorized and is being investigated. He said citric acid used in the flush was neutralized before the discharge occurred into a catch basin, which overflowed and spilled down the cliff.

But Clark said the discharge smelled, was dark and lasted for several hours that morning until he turned it off himself. He showed samples taken of the water in two plastic bottles, which were black and contained an odor.
 

Clark said he was threatened by a manager at the site who told him he was going to “watch every move you make.”

Standing with some of his fellow union members outside ‘Imiloa, Clark said they felt they had to speak out about it.

“We couldn’t stand the smell,” he said. “We was 10 feet away having lunch, 10 feet from that stream, from that running water.”

Clark added, “We all felt responsible for our grandkids, their grandkids and our resources.”
 

Lee said the spill was reported to DOH. He previously said less than 7,000 gallons were discharged and about 3,500 gallons made it through the outfall. Clark said he thought Hu Honua was underestimating the size of the spill.
 

Lee said the water could have been dark because of the scale removed from inside the boiler. He acknowledged the industrial spill doesn’t help make their case as a responsible neighbor".