Tempers flare at geothermal meeting

Tempers flare at geothermal meeting

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - A community meeting in Puna this Saturday over the release of geothermal gas ended after an unidentified man got into a shoving match with the hosts.

The Puna Pono Alliance said that dozens of residents got sick as a result of the release of hydrogen sulfide gas that escaped the night of Tropical Storm Iselle.

"I think right now it's about 100," said Tom Travis of the Puna Pono Alliance.

"Twenty-eight had respiratory symptoms, 22 had headaches and 19 had lethargy."

Puna Geothermal Venture has been trying to reassure families that the gas wasn't enough to cause illnesses. The company said the release was below federal standards.

"Our folks and our system responded exactly like our designed system was supposed to," said Mike Kaleikini, plant manager for Puna Geothermal Venture.

"We released a total of 39 pounds unabated and 29 pounds abated."

The state Health Department said only ten people showed up at area hospitals that night and that doctors couldn't pinpoint the problem. The DOH said it's not investigating.

But Travis said that many of the residents were unable to go to hospitals to damaged roads and other storm-related problems.

Residents who attended Saturday's meeting were also upset that the geothermal plant stayed online.

The Puna Pono Alliance said it plans to renew calls for the county to create a better emergency plan to protect nearby neighbors.

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