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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Biggest polluters in Hawai'i power plants, study finds

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

Seven of the top 10 sources of toxic air emissions in Hawai'i are power plants, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA figures show that 1999 toxic-chemical releases into the atmosphere by the top polluters were about the same level as in 1998.

The plant that pumped the most toxic chemicals into the atmosphere was Hawaiian Electric Co.'s Kahe Point generating station, with 852,000 pounds of chemical releases, followed by the utility's Waiau Generating Station, with 337,000 pounds.

"In Hawai'i, you don't have a lot of industry, so generating plants tend to be high on the list," said Adam Browning, HECO's Toxic Release Inventory program coordinator.

Other generating stations with high releases were the Hawai'i Electric Light Co.'s Hill, Puna and Shipman generating stations, Maui Electric Co.'s Kahului plant and the coal-fired AES Hawai'i plant in Kapolei.

The Chevron and Tesoro Hawai'i refineries also were among the top polluters, along with Ball Metal Beverage Container Corp., whose releases, unlike the others, involve volatile gases more than products of combustion.

In an interesting sidelight, an EPA press release issued Thursday claims a 29 percent reduction in toxic releases in Hawai'i from 1998 to 1999. That is based on a statistical error. In fact, Hawai'i releases did not change much during that period.

The error was based on a high release figure for the AES Hawai'i coal plant in 1998, the first year of the Toxics Release Inventory program.

AES Hawai'i project manager John Shin said the company had limited emissions information available that year, and was forced to use some hypothetical calculations to produce its numbers, which came in at 1.17 million pounds of releases. The actual amount was closer to the 1999 figure of 82,000 pounds, Shin said.

The fairly new AES plant uses injections of limestone and ammonia to remove sulfur and nitrogen compounds from its emissions, making it a low emitter of toxic products.

"This is the cleanest power plant in the state," Shin said, largely because it is the newest and has the latest pollution control technology.

The EPA's Browning conceded that for AES Hawai'i, "most of the drop has more to do with their reporting practices rather than changes in the plant."

To review the data, check the EPA's Web site. For Toxics Release Inventory figures, see this Web site.