Spill at Hu Honua Violated State Law

Hu Honua Bioenergy violated state law by discharging industrial wastewater into the ocean near Pepeekeo, the state Department of Health says.

DOH announced Friday it is pursuing an environmental enforcement action against the biomass facility that is under construction. An investigation is ongoing.

“The discharge was a blatant disrespect of the environmental laws that govern this highly regulated industry,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson in a press release. “The history of concern over the operations of this facility emphasize the need for the Department of Health to take swift action on this violation.”

Hu Honua President Warren Lee has said the discharge was the result of a boiler flush. He said it was not something the company condones, and it was conducting its own investigation.

Dave Clark, who is working at the site, said he saw a “black river of water” going over the cliff Nov. 9. He said the water had an odor.

Lee said less than 7,000 gallons was discharged with about 3,500 gallons exiting through an outfall. Clark said he thought the amount was higher.

DOH said enforcement personnel did an inspection Nov. 20, and it’s collecting more information to determine the size of the spill.

“While in general, the department does not provide information about ongoing investigations, given the public nature of this case and community concerns, we are confirming the cause of the spill and moving forward on the enforcement process,” said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of Environmental Health in the statement. “Fortunately, our staff did not observe visible damage to the environment or determine an imminent threat to the health of the public from the discharge.”

A formal report with recommendations for enforcement requirements and penalties will be completed. For unlawful discharges to state waters, violators face potential civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day per violation and potential criminal prosecution.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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