(BIVN) – E. Kalani Flores testified in opposition to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit renewal for the Thirty Meter Telescope construction on Mauna Kea, one of many to speak out at a public hearing held Tuesday night in Kona.
The NPDES permit, good for five years, will allow the TMT project to discharge storm water to receiving State waters, subject to special conditions, during construction activities. The previous NPDES permit expired, although state officials say it was extended.
“We collectively and as individuals of the Flores-Case ʻOhana request a contested case hearing,” Flores said, “to demonstrate why the Department of Health should deny the renewal application… and why the permittee should be issued administrative and civil fines for violations as noted.”
“It’s undisputed that the original permit that was issued was for June 12, 2014 and an expired June 11, 2019,” Flores testified. “However, several land disturbance activities have occurred at the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope project site and Access Way without a valid NPDES permit. Such activities have occurred between August and October 2013.”
Flores held up photos he called “exhibit a”, which he said shows “heavy construction equipment that was on the mountain at that time and doing land disturbance activities prior to the issuance of a permit.”
UPDATE – The University of Hawaiʻi responded to Flores’ assertion, saying that in 2012, “the DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands issued a permit for geotechnical work at the TIO site. The geotechnical work is basically test borings and a NPDES is not required for this type of activity.” A UH spokesperson referred to the Contested Case hearing Finding of Fact 610:
No subsurface archaeological work was done at the proposed TMT Project site except for the geotechnical testing. During the geotechnical testing done in 2013, no archaeological findings were identified and no water was located during the geotechnical work on the TMT Project site. Tr. 01/04/17 at 156:6-12. Archaeological monitors were present during all ground disturbing activity and observed all the material excavated or removed during ground searching. (Rechtman) Tr. 12/20/16 at 78:22-79:6. A grading permit was acquired for the geotechnical work. (Dr. Sanders) Tr. 01/04/17at 16:19-23.
Last week, state officials announced the TMT project has been granted a Notice To Proceed with construction on the mountain. At the time, Hawaiʻi Attorney General Clare Connors said the NPDES permit renewal was a “pretty straight forward process.”
“There will be a hearing,” Connors said, “but there has already been an extension granted on the renewal and there is no new permit that is intended to be issued or needed to be issued.”
All testifiers at the Kona hearing opposed the NPDES permit renewal, and most requested a contested case be held on the matter. A handful of TMT supporters were in attendance but did not speak.
Big Island Video News has published the full video of the hearing.