With lava moving through Puna, worry grows over safety of Puna Geothermal Venture

Five days after Kilauea eruptions started, lava shows no signs of stopping
Published: May. 6, 2018 at 9:14 PM HST|Updated: May. 6, 2018 at 10:56 PM HST
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As lava moves through the Leilani Estates Subdivision, concerned residents are growing anxious over the status of the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV).

The power plant sits less than a mile from where lava erupted from at least one fissure.

Councilwoman for the district, Eileen O'Hara, says the main concern is the nearly 60,000 gallons of pentane stored on site. Pentane is a highly flammable liquid.

Leilani Estates resident William Braham told Hawaii News Now on Thursday that the plant was the main reason he decided to leave his home.

"I understand that the lava can come down, but much more likely, it's going to come over here. And that's directly in the line of the geothermal. And that makes me feel very, very unsafe," Braham said.

PGV is a geothermal energy conversion plant and the electricity generated there is sold to Hawaii Electric Light Company and then distributed to customers around the island.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator told reporters on Sunday that the current volcanic activity appeared to be heading in the opposite direction of the plant.

Talmadge Magno said the plant had been evacuated but the flammables were still on site.

"Everything is still on property. They moved it to high ground just in case any flows would start coming that way, give them a little more time. But their plans are made to get them out of there if it gets to that next level," said Magno.

Councilwoman O'Hara said she was told by PGV officials that they are complying with their evacuation plan which is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state health department. She said the plan is based off of risk analysis.

"If every drop of pentane that is being stored on site...were to ignite simultaneously, would it be able to cause a fire in the nearest residence? The evaluation says no. It might cause glass to shatter from the explosion, but it could not cause a fire at the nearest residence," said O'Hara.

O'Hara said the mayor and civil defense officials have the authority to order those flammables to be removed from the site, which has its risks as well.

Magno said they are prepared to give that order if and when that time comes.

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