Puna is fighting back after a triple whammy

By Cory Harden

  1. A geothermal release while residents were trapped in their homes by near-hurricane conditions and blocked roads, after trees and power lines fell. Monitors for hazardous gases went down, because the power went off and there was no backup generator. Several residents report falling asleep for hours, then feeling unwell for days afterwards. The release could have been prevented by simply shutting off the geothermal plant before the storm.
  2. Storm effects–damage to homes, blocked roads, and loss of power and communication (for weeks, in places).
  3. A quickly scheduled election that drew an unsuccesful lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union–some roads were still blocked and people were still struggling to meet basic needs.

Sierra Club supports a hard look at geothermal safety, and dealing with the invasive albizia trees that caused many of the road blockages. (Many albizias remain.)
Moku Loa group supports the efforts of activists who have intervened in the effort by the Thirty Meter Telescope corporation and the University of Hawaii to expand the industrial footprint on the unique geologic landscape and fragile habitat of endemic flora and fauna of the Mauna Kea summit area. Judicial review by the Third Circuit and Intermediate Court of Appeal are pending. Meanwhile the effects of climate change, more pronounced at higher elevations, have led to drier conditions, impacting wekiu bug populations and the water level at Lake Waiau.

The Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant in Kona has been dumping sewage into a hole in the ground for twenty years where it then goes into the ocean causing pollution. A recent federal decision won by Sierra Club and other groups on Maui ruled such discharges are illegal. So, Sierra Club is looking to end the illegal discharges by Hawaii County and go back into court and force recycling of the treated effluent which has always been the plan.

The County is forging ahead with plans for a garbage incinerator, despite major concerns. It may burn material that could be recycled or used for compost and mulch. The County would have to pay if it didn’t produce enough garbage to burn–as O’ahu just paid. Risks from toxic smoke and ash would have to be dealt with.

Taxpayers would be locked into a 30-year contract for a $125 million project–probably the biggest in County history. Sierra Club continues to publicize concerns and support zero waste, and partnered with Recycle Hawai’i on candidate forums highlighting these issues