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Geothermal company has one month to respond to allegations

The Environmental Protection Agency is giving Puna Geothermal Venture another month to respond to a report that alleged Clean Air Act violations.

The 14 violations cited in the April report apply to the act’s general duty clause and risk management program requirements.

Eleven of the violations appear to be historical, and were corrected as of 2010. The report noted ongoing issues relating to certain inspections, tests and maintenance not occurring as frequently as PGV’s mechanical integrity program requires.

Dean Higuchi, EPA’s Hawaii spokesman, said the violations are considered alleged until the investigation is closed. The investigation remains open while PGV responds to the report.

A deadline was initially given for the end of this month after PGV was provided a 30-day extension. Higuchi said PGV requested another extension until July 31, which was approved.

All but one of the violations apply to the risk management program.

The final finding, a violation of the act’s general duty clause, cited several issues related to the handling and abatement system for hydrogen sulfide.

Most had to do with preventative maintenance of “critical system components” not being performed “in accordance to frequencies established in PGV’s system mechanical integrity program,” according to the report.

For instance, EPA investigators said about 30 percent of tasks related to preventative maintenance of the five production wells were not completed as scheduled. They also noted that when the inspection occurred last August, “almost no” tasks had been done for 2013.

Such issues are considered a violation of the clause’s requirements that operators “maintain a safe facility” by taking steps to prevent releases and minimizing consequences of accidental releases.

Still, a letter EPA sent to PGV with the report noted the plant is in general “both well- and safely operated.”

“There are things they need to address to make sure they are fully in compliance,” Higuchi said.

“We see it as (PGV is) generally well-maintained and safely operated.”

He said EPA conducted the inspection in response to concerns expressed by Puna residents following the release of hydrogen sulfide at the facility March 13, 2013.

That release was caused by a plant shutdown, prompted by a trip in the transmission lines.

A phone call to Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director of Hawaiian affairs, wasn’t returned by press time.

He previously said PGV disagrees with the report’s findings but couldn’t provide additional comment prior to the facility completing its response to the agency.

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