While lava inches closer to PGV, officials say 10 of 11 wells 'quenched'

As lava crosses roads, authorities worry more routes may be closed
Published: May. 15, 2018 at 9:59 AM HST|Updated: May. 27, 2018 at 12:27 PM HST
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PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Sunday morning, lava reached the Puna Geothermal Venture property after days of inching towards the site.

OTen of the 11 wells have been quenched, according to officials. Quenching is a process in which the well is injected with water to cool and depressurize it.

The 11th well has been plugged with bentonite clay after proving resistant to quenching efforts.

Hawaii News Now was told the mud-like substance is holding up and the pressure in the final well is low.

Pacific Air Cargo shipped an additional 200,000 pounds of clay from Los Angeles to Kona Sunday to assist with well stabilization.

However, PGV officials have conceded they don't know if hydrogen sulfide is the only possible hazard the community could face if lava interacts with their wells.

For now, plant personnel remains on site 24/7 to monitor conditions. So far, there has been no release of hydrogen sulfide detected.

In previous weeks, authorities removed 60,000 gallons of highly flammable pentane gas from property.

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the Leilani volcanic eruption. Safety has been and always will be PGV's top priority and we are sparing no resources to ensure the safety of our employees and of the surrounding communities," PGV said in a statement.

"After the frequency of earthquakes increased dramatically, plant personnel closed and secured the facility per the emergency response plan. As part of that, we have done the following:

• We shut down the power plant and the geothermal wells have all been shut down.

• All pentane, a flammable fluid used in the electricity generation process, has been removed from the site and is safely stored off-site.

"The danger's gone as long as we maintain the wells killed," Tom Travis, director of HI-EMA said.

Hawaii County Councilmember Jennifer Ruggles, who represents the area, said if the wells were breached, they could release dangerous gas into the air, including flammable and toxic hydrogen sulfide.

PGV is a geothermal energy conversion plant that produces about a quarter of the island's energy.

Area residents were told repeatedly that all production had been shut down after the very first fissure outbreak within Leilani Estates nearly three weeks ago.

This story may be updated.

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