Hu Honua Bioenergy is being fined $25,000 for discharging industrial wastewater into the ocean by the Hawaii State Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch
The Hawaii State Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch (DOH) is fining Hu Honua Bioenergy $25,000 for discharging industrial wastewater into the ocean Nov. 9 at the biomass power plant under construction in Pepeekeo. According to the DOH, the discharge was intentional and violates state law.
“Our inspectors have confirmed a worker for Hu Honua Bioenergy opened a valve on its industrial wastewater treatment tank and allowed the contents of the tank to discharge from their facility into the environment,” said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of DOH’s Environmental Health Administration, in a statement. “This is a serious violation as discharges without permit authorization are strictly prohibited to protect human and environmental health from exposure to pollutants, which can cause serious and sometimes irreparable harm.”
According to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, the discharge occurred five days prior to a contentious public hearing in Hilo where opponents of the project requested an environmental impact statement be performed before the power plant is completed. The hearing focused on the biomass project’s storm water discharge and water injection well permits.
The project is being built without an EIS or environmental assessment as DOH officials contend the project does not require review under state environmental laws, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. Some triggers for environmental review can include use of public lands or public funds.
The investigation of the incident determined the discharged wastewater was generated between Nov. 2 and Nov. 6 as part of Hu Honua’s commissioning of its boiler, according to the DOH. The industrial wastewater produced by a boiler flush had been stored in wastewater treatment tanks prior to the discharge. Between 3,500 gal of treated wastewater were discharged, according to the DOH.
The DOH said while the dark-green-colored wastewater was filtered and neutralized prior to discharge, it contained high levels of iron and is regulated waste.
According to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Hu Honua reported the discharge to the DOH. A statement from the company characterized the wastewater as “inadvertently released without authorization from a settling tank where it was still in the process of being treated.”