HELCO, PTA top polluters


Tribune-Herald staff writer

A Hilo power plant and the Army's Pohakuloa Training Area made the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's newly released list of the state's top 10 industrial polluters for 2010.

The 33.7-megawatt "Hill" generating station on Railroad Avenue was the sixth-largest polluter with a reported 140,028 pounds of toxic chemicals, mostly sulfuric acid. Although the plant was seventh on the 2009 list, reported emissions are down about a third from the 210,120 pounds of pollutants reportedly released by the Hilo facility in 2009.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. President Jay Ignacio said Thursday that the biggest reason for the drop is a "different way of calculating the inventory levels."

"We've gone from a method we've been using for many years, and we've moved to a method that's more of an industry standard practice," he said. "We just did it for the first time this year. That method is used by utilities throughout the nation and it's been accepted by the EPA."

Ignacio added that there are other factors for the reduction.

"On average, we're using less sulfur in our fuel," he said. "We're also running the units less hours throughout the year."

Ignacio said power demand is down "for a combination of reasons" — including the economy.

"People are cutting back and using energy more wisely, using more energy-efficient techniques," he said, including solar water heating, energy-efficient appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

"Energy use is down, so we need to produce less energy," he added.

Conspicuously missing from the list is HELCO's 20.2-megawatt Keaau power plant, which was No. 8 in 2009, reporting 110,008 pounds of chemicals released, almost all sulfuric acid.

The facility in 2010 reportedly released 58,006 pounds of chemicals, again almost exclusively sulfuric acid.

Statewide, the EPA is reporting about 2.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals released into the environment by 37 industrial facilities in Hawaii in 2010, a 15 percent drop from 2009.

Hawaii County accounts for 334,485 pounds of that total, down from 417,418 pounds in 2009.

The Army's training area and range facility on Saddle Road ranked ninth among reported polluters in the state, with 96,397 pounds of chemicals reported. PTA was not on the top 10 list for 2009. According to data on the EPA's website, all of the waste is metals or metal compounds, with 39,725 pounds classified as PBTs, or persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals. Both categories include lead.

A call early Thursday afternoon to Army Garrison Hawaii's public affairs office was not returned in time for this story.

Six of the top 10 industrial polluters were in Honolulu County, all located in Leeward Oahu. The perennial top polluter, Hawaiian Electric Co.'s Kahe Point generating station near Kapolei is again atop the list with 550,651 pounds of pollutants, and joint Navy and Air Force Facility Pearl Harbor-Hickam is second, with 420,761 pounds. Two other Leeward Oahu power plants, the Waiau generating station in Pearl City and the AES facility in Kapolei, ranked fourth and seventh, respectively.

The other two Oahu entries are refineries, Chevron at No. 3 and Tesoro at No. 8. Both are in Kapolei.

Rounding out the list are Maui Electric Co.'s Kahului generating facility, ranked fifth, and its Maalaea power plant, tenth.

Data from the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory include more than 650 toxic chemicals discharged into the air, water and land, including landfills, or transferred elsewhere for disposal.

"The annual toxics report helps residents and local governments make informed decisions, and by working together with businesses, they can reduce chemical use," Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said in a written statement.

Although it's not included in the report, the largest producer of toxic emissions in the state, by far, is Kilauea volcano.

According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory's daily update on its website, the volcano emitted about 450 tons of sulfur dioxide on Wednesday alone. At that rate it pollutes the environment more in three days than industry and the military do in a year.

On the Internet: http://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/tri_release.chemical

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