PGV fined for operational, emission and notification violations

  • Lava flanks Puna Geothermal Venture in June in lower Puna. Special thanks to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

KAILUA-KONA — Puna Geothermal Venture has been fined by the state Department of Health for operational, emission and notification violations that occurred between 2014 and 2017 at the Puna facility.

The violations were determined from inspections and a review of the company’s incident reports, the state Department of Health’s Clean Air Branch said in a press release. In total, Puna Geothermal Venture was fined $11,100 and ordered to take corrective action within 20 days.

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PGV was among seven companies issued notices by the branch, which noted that each has or had the option to request a hearing to contest alleged violations and penalties.

The Notice and Finding of Violation issued to PGV on Oct. 22 by the branch listed 10 violations of its noncovered source permit that occurred during the three years.

According to the notice, PGV failed to:

• Meet 75 percent completeness requirements for reporting ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide as required by federal law. According to the branch, PGV’s Station A reporting marked 64 percent completeness during the fourth quarter of 2016 and Station B notched 30 percent completeness in the first quarter of 2017.

• Failed to maintain and ensure the Emergency Steam Release Facility (ESRF) was operational on Sept. 29, 2016, after the ESRF became inoperable when a 1-inch vent detached from the production well KS-13 expansion loop.

• Failed to prevent accumulated wellhead gas or any other geothermal fluid to be discharged into the atmosphere without first being directed through a hydrogen sulfide abatement system. “Due to the failure of the ESRF on Sept. 29, 2016, the press release valve (PRV) servicing production wells KS-5 and KS-6 released accumulated wellhead gas or geothermal fluid into the atmosphere without first being directed through a hydrogen sulfide abatement system.”

• Failure to prevent accumulated wellhead gas or any other geothermal fluid to be discharged into the atmosphere without first being directed through a hydrogen sulfide abatement system. Due to the failure of a wellhead control valve on Oct. 3, 2016, the PRV servicing production well KS-14 released accumulated wellhead gas or geothermal fluid into the atmosphere without first being directed through a hydrogen sulfide abatement system.

• Failed to notify DOH in writing with two days after completion of drilling production well KS-16.

• Failed to submit within 60 days of a semi-annual monitoring report for periods January-June 2014; July-December 2014; and July to December 2015.

• Failed to submit samples for analyses to a qualified lab within the required number days after obtaining samples from production wells KS-6, 9, 5, 16 and 14 in October 2015.

• Failed to submit resampling results of KS-5 within five working days after receiving the results from a qualified lab.

• Failed to resample production well KS-6 within six months after Oct. 1, 2015, test results indicated a hydrogen sulfide concentration deviation greater than 10 percent of the initial well measurement.

• Failed to sample production well KS-10 during the 2014 calendar year.

The Puna Geothermal Venture plant has been shut down since early May after the start of the lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kilauea. Geothermal wells were quenched with cold water and sealed, with three of the wells subsequently overrun by lava. Lava also consumed a warehouse and a substation at the facility of Kapoho-Pahoa Road.

In August, Ormat Technologies, owners of PGV, told Big Island newspapers that reopening the power plant would take at least 18 months.

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Ludwig Construction, Inc. in Keaau was issued notice by the Clean Air Branch for not conducting annual performance tests for 2015 and 2016 on its mobile crushing plant. The company was also late in submitting its permit renewal application and semi-annual monitoring reports. The branch’s fine for Ludwig Construction was $8,600.

The branch said that in general, fines are assessed to remove any economic benefit a company may have gained by not complying with their permit requirements. All fines are paid into a revolving fund that helps prevent or minimize damage to the environment.