By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The County Council will discuss a new geothermal bill next week, this time regarding well drilling at night.
The bill will be discussed during the Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability Committee. The committee is scheduled to meet at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Hilo council chambers, 25 Aupuni St.
County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong, who is introducing the bill, said recent well drilling at Puna Geothermal Venture has been disruptive to nearby residents since it occurred during both day and night hours.
“I was there during the daytime and it was pretty loud,” he said.
The bill would only allow geothermal well drilling from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. if it occurs within a mile of a residence to prevent drilling at night.
It would apply to current and future geothermal facilities, as well as exploration wells.
Mike Kaleikini, PGV plant manager, said the bill would increase drilling time, but for how much is still being evaluated.
The plant finished drilling a 5,182-foot well in July.
It started drilling March 1 and was expected to finish in June.
Kaleikini said it took longer than estimated to find a “geothermal resource.”
No other wells are planned, he said.
Suzanne Wakelin said she lives about 1.5 miles from the plant and supports the bill.
She said she was woken up “frequently” by the recent well drilling.
While the drilling wasn’t constant, there was almost always some noise associated with the well expansion, Wakelin said.
“This noise would just go on and on,” she said.
“It was bad enough I would wake up and feel very bothered by it,” she added.
Daytime noise was also an issue, Wakelin said, though more tolerable.
Wakelin said she is concerned that nearby residents could face the same problem once new wells are drilled. She said a prohibition on night-time drilling would allow residents and PGV to better coexist.
“And part of that is being able to sleep,” Wakelin said.
Noise readings reached at least as high as 60 decibels during the drilling. PGV’s land is zoned agriculture, which allows up to 70 decibels.
Kaleikini said the plant’s noise levels didn’t exceed that amount.
Nearby residents were also informed beforehand about the well drilling, he said.
Geothermal has been a hot topic with the council for much of the year.
The council recently passed two geothermal-related bills, one regarding use of a geothermal royalty account for health studies and additional monitoring, and another regarding an evacuation plan.
Mayor Billy Kenoi vetoed both, citing redundancy and other issues, including concerns with a prohibition on reselling properties acquired through a geothermal relocation program.
The council failed to override the vetoes.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.