HILO, Hawaii – The Windward Planning Commission has approved a Hawaii County Civil Defense request to release funds for an updated air quality model for the area surrounding Puna Geothermal Venture. The project will study the dispersion of hydrogen sulfide and other gases from the Pohoiki power plant.
Past and present civil defense heads presented the request to commissioners during a meeting in Hilo on Thursday. Retired former Civil Defense chief Darryl Oliveira sat beside present and interim Civil Defense administrator Ed Teixeira during the hearing. Both supported the use of the Geothermal Asset Fund for the project, which will total $362,719.
The request was also supported by a handful of public testifiers; members of the Puna Pono Alliance and Sierra Club.
Officials say the model will “serve as a tool to help update existing emergency response plans; inform the location of new, fixed monitors to be installed in the surrounding community; and to inform the proposed Geothermal Public Health Study about the nature of public exposure in varying weather and release conditions.”
The community has been seeking better air monitoring near the plant for years.
Dr. Steven Businger, a professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, will be overseeing the project. Businger was also present to answer commissioners’ questions.