Almost seven years ago, on July 17, 2002, Parx News Net published an investigative report detailing the underground toxic waste dump at what was then Kaua`i Electric’s `Ele`ele power plant.
Despite the report, the sale of KE to the Kaua`i Island Utility Co-op.(KIUC) went forward and was from all reports at the time not considered in the sale price.
It was published in anticipation of the impending sale and is reprinted below. Following the report is a reply from a KE environmental consultant followed by our reply to their letter, to which neither they nor KE nor KIUC has ever responded.
We reprint this article today while another KIUC Board of Directors election is taking place in the hope that some background material might help people ask questions of board members, remembering that we, the electricity consumers of Kaua`i, now own the `Ele`ele property,
A PNN Investigative Report:
Toxic waste dump "discovered" atKE’s `Ele`ele power plant.
Ground permeated with diesel petroleum, heavy metal and chemical carcinogens; 40 feet deep "plume" infiltrates site
Law calls for cleanup; Years of neglect and misconduct alleged;
Value of KE in question with massive cleanup indicated
by Andy Parx
A six month PNN investigation has found that the Kaua`i Electric (KE) power plant in `Ele`ele sits on a lake of diesel fuel that is cross contaminated with other toxins and that many other toxic situations have been ignored, covered up or not reported during the past 10 years by KE and the Hawai`i State Department of Health (DOH).
In a series of delicately worded yet damning passages, a Masa Fujioka and Associates Phase I Environmental Site Assessment indicates lax treatment of hazardous waste by KE and a distinct lack of enforcement by the DOH.
PNN has uncovered documentation of reported toxicity in active cases before the DOH, one of which was not reported in the Fujioka study, leading to the question of how many other incidents were either missed or covered up by Fujioka .
The two-fold focus of the Fujioka study was to list reported environmental incidents, along with a cursory visual inspection during guided tours of the KE facility.
PNN has found that a look at the "incidents" that were covered in the report show that they were all of a nature where they could not be covered up and had to be reported and the report is sprinkled with references to issues that have been probably or possibly resolved, although what has become apparent is that some cases were most likely shuffled to the bottom of the pile at the DOH bureaucracy.
PNN has also spoken to an extremely reliable source who has worked extensively at the plant who says that no capital improvements have been done for years in anticipation of the sale. The source has provided photographs of more than a dozen different leaks, corrosions and rust on tanks, storage areas and valves, and documented the lack of legally required "secondary containment" in many areas of the KE power plant property in `Ele`ele.
PNN has chosen to present this person’s documentation, while maintaining anonymity at the request of the source, who fears he would lose his livelihood if his name is revealed. PNN has urged the source to come forward as a whistleblower.
PNN has also found that the Kaua`i Island Utilities Co-op (KIUC), which is attempting to purchase KE has publicly misrepresented the Environmental Site Assessment conducted in late 2001 as being complete and showing no signs of toxic contamination at the site.
At first, spokesperson Walter Barnes claimed that the assessment was a full study including massive underground testing and a full geo-technical look at the property. But the fact is that detailed study, including a look below the ground, is expressly forbidden by a KE/ KIUC agreement and is explicitly stated by Fujioka to not be within the scope of the assessment.
In addition, there exist multiple agreements for confidentiality regarding existing further environmental information that is in KE’s possession and the prohibition of KIUC from looking further into long held charges that the area was subject to more than a century of toxic materials dumping and burying, according to most of those who lived and worked in the area.
KIUC still maintains that the report shows that no further study or investigation is indicated, despite the conclusions of the report. The report does not list any events prior to 1991.
The agreements also forbid KIUC from doing further environmental investigation and, according to one KIUC board member there are many environmental documents that remain "under seal"
(Note: all un-attributed quotations in this report are from the Fujioka study)
1. ELE`ELE: AN HISTORICAL TOXIC WASTE DUMP
The "sleepy" town of Hanapepe/`Ele`ele was not always that way.
The site of Port Allen in `Ele`ele had been the main harbor for Kaua`i since 1844 when it was called `Ele'ele Landing. In 1909, with the new name of Port Allen it had become the main loading area for every type of toxic chemical that came down the pike of the "Industrial Revolution".
Over the years fuel storage tanks and storage depots for sugar cane pesticides, chemicals of all manner including highly toxic PCB’s, lead, asbestos, mercury etc. proliferated in the area. By the sixties a fossil fuel burning power plant and fuel storage facility were in full function although the main "port" for Kaua`i had moved to Nawiliwili in the Lihu`e area.
Ask anyone old enough to remember and they will tell you what most Kauaiians, especially west siders, know: prior to the 70’s environmental and Ecology movements- and even for years following that here on Kaua`i- the place to dump oil, battery acid, and any other type of toxic compound or element was in the ground. And the ground closest to where the chemicals sat was the best.
There is very little doubt that the Ele`ele site had been used by KE and the surrounding businesses to get rid of toxic materials. A study of the amounts unloaded vs. the amounts- if any- that were shipped back off island would tell anyone that these materials were not leaving the island. It is not much of a reach to think that most of them are still in the ground at `Ele`ele and Port Allen.
In the 70’s when many of those who worked there for years were still alive, stories abounded about buried transformers and various and sundry dangerous materials spilled or buried at the site. Old time Hanapepe residents even to this day say that the more environmentally conscientious citizens went out to the site to dump their toxins there, since they knew it was already severely contaminated.
Although anecdotal, this "evidence" is so extensive as to make it, if not undeniable, certainly subject to further investigation and testing.
KIUC and KE have ignored all evidence of this nature requiring specific charges, of specific dumping, by specific persons, in specific areas before they will even consider responding to the charges.
2) TOXINS TODAY
KE and KIUC tell people that there is no toxicity problem and tell them to "prove it". They have done so without even investigating the anecdotal claims and, in fact forbid anyone from doing so.
But the evidence provided in the Fujioka report is damming in it own right, notwithstanding KIUC’s claims that it gives a clean bill of health to the property.
The joint KE/KIUC’s filing of a sale agreement with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in March 2002 states that it "agrees not to conduct additional due diligence, including employee interviews and sampling of any media or wastewater..."
The agreement say that KIUC "may not conduct Phase II environmental assessment activities with respect to the Assets (including but not limited to the taking and analysis of soil, surface water and groundwater samples, testing of buildings, drilling wells, taking soil borings and excavating)."
In an interview with Walter Barnes- the self described "former critic" of the self styled "co-op" that has no non Board of Director members- he claimed that all of these types of testing were done and that KIUC was fully satisfied with the results. Upon being presented with some of the facts and findings of the Fujioka report he still claimed that there was nothing to indicate further study was needed.
As to comments by KIUC Chairman Gregg Gardiner, the only comment he would make on the environmental situation, was to say of the Fujioka Phase I report "that’s all you’re going to get."
KIUC claims that they are indemnified by an insurance policy against finding and having to be responsible for cleaning up any toxic waste. However PNN has leaned that the amount that is covered by the policy is severely limited and that all liability for any environmental cleanup will be transferred to KIUC from KE when the sale is complete.
Though it is unclear exactly how much is covered by the policy it is no more than $25 million, and probably much lower, since there are levels somewhere between $1 million and the $25 million where KIUC would retain financial liability.
What is clear is that anything above $25 million would be the responsibility of KIUC and thereby the ratepayers.
The exact terms of the policy have been requested by PNN from Barnes and have not been delivered. Another KIUC board member did admit that they are "probably also under seal" along with many other documents.
But one thing that KE will admit- since it is a matter of public record- is that a sea of "weathered diesel" – petroleum hydrocarbon liquids, as they are called- "have been detected as free product on the groundwater located approximately 40 feet below the Chevron terminal, the KE power plant and the road between the properties." a situation that, it is documented, Chevron was aware of at least as far back as 1991.
Although KE claims that it spread from the Chevron storage facility that abuts the KE property, this has never been proven. In fact, although Chevron is "managing the monitoring and recovery effort... KE paid for the installation of monitoring and recovery wells on KE property."
Why KE would pay for something that was caused by Chevron is not addressed by anyone connected with the situation.
The condition remains unremediated as of November 2001 (and certainly today) when an environmental report stated "that only 25 to 50% (of an) estimated 2,400 gallons... is recoverable (and that only) "approximately 120 gallons of product have been recovered.
Although the sea of diesel remains a continuing problem, another one that’s still outstanding with the DOH, despite attempts to play it down by Fujioka, is "petroleum contaminated soils in the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) lube oil berm where two tanks- one 3000 gallons, one 4000- have apparently been spilling diesel fuel for quite some time, a situation that was unreported by KE until it was apparently discovered during a required environmental inspection performed by Ogden Environmental in 1998.
Despite evidence of leakage for many years, "no spill was ever reported or is known to current KE personnel."
The Fujioka report ends the incident right there, saying that after testing, KE was required to "line the berm to mitigate contaminants from migrating" saying that "the DOH file lists the incident as ‘low priority’, with a 1997 note saying ‘need to determine the level of halogens in soil’."
However KE- which was responsible for providing the reports that Fujioka was restricted to using in their study- did not report that the case is currently very much active and is under scrutiny as a serious matter by the DOH.
In December of 1999, a letter to Dennis Polosky, then VP of KE, was sent by DOH saying KE may be in violation of HRS 342-j, Part IV and subject to $25,000 per day per incident penalties as well as criminal charges.
"The facility’s first (ever) Hazardous Waste Compliance Evaluation Inspection" done in Oct. 1999, revealed a plethora of leaky and unlabeled storage drums and the report stated that hazardous materials had not been properly disposed of- or even identified. Although Polosky claimed in a Jan. 2000 letter to have rectified the some of the conditions, there is no record of DOH ever having re-inspected the property and the lube oil berm situation has never been properly addressed.
Polosky is now chief of KE and has signed on to head up the operation if KIUC takes over.
As late as Feb 10, 2000 the floor at the EMD remained unlined because, according to KE’s operation superintendent Randall Hee, "there have been several personnel changes at KE and at the HEER (Hazard Evaluation and Emergency response) office". In a letter to the DOH Hee admitted KE had still not brought "the spill containment area into compliance with current regulation."
Although contaminated soil from the EMD had supposedly been tested and disposed of at the Kekaha landfill, KE wanted to concrete over the entire area without further cleanup and was, as of that time, awaiting a response from the HEER.
A PNN investigator found that there is no further recorded activity indicated in the matter in DOH files. It remains unknown if the situation has been addressed much less rectified.
Questions PNN was not able to answer due to either lack of provision of documents or the rush to "fast track" the PUC review of the sale, include:
· Why wasn’t this DOH file or the correspondence part of Fujioka’s report?
· What other materials that, according to law, should have been readily available for Fujioka’s review regarding hazardous materials at the `Ele`ele plant, does the report neglect to include?
· Does this indicate that sloppy work and lax attitude toward serious environmental problems is the norm at KE? What accounted for the high number of leaking and unlabeled materials discovered in the cursory, first-ever DOH inspection?
· Why weren’t these conditions discovered and rectified, if not by KE on its own initiative, at least by the various consultants such as Ogden Environmental that were hired over the years to make sure they were in compliance?
· How many other hazardous conditions were undiscovered by DOH because they might not have know about areas that needed inspection or due to the fact that this had not, by any means, been an unannounced inspection and KE had adequate time to bury or cover up other violations?
· And do these question indicate a need for further environmental study, just based KE and DOH records from the past few years?
3. THE FUJIOKA REPORT- A PRELIMINARY, CURSORY "DRIVE-BY" LOOK AT SURFACE ISSUES AS DISCOVERED AND REPORTED BY THE OFFENDERS WITHIN THE LAST FEW YEARS ONLY.
A Phase I Environmental Assessment such as the Fujioka study is, by self-definition, a limited exercise. Nothing that was not known before is contained in the report- it is only a list of all "readily available documents... government records regarding environmental conditions, citations, complaints and permits (as well as) available published information on surface and subsurface conditions".
Despite the overwhelming anecdotal evidence, according to the report there had never been any type of complaint or citation until the 1990’s. Yet the findings since then present a picture of lax procedures and situations where incidents were reported to the authorities only when it was impossible to have kept them "confidential" within KE.
The "plume" of diesel- more accurately described as a 40 foot deep three dimensional lake of spilled petroleum- was known to at least Chevron as early as 1991 "when it installed 11 monitoring wells". Over the years "oil and grease have been detected in KE’s cooling water outfall on several occasions" mixing more toxic chemicals with the diesel fuel creating a toxic mess from ground level to 40 feet down.
This condition apparently exists today and there are no plans to clean it up.
In addition to the ocean of diesel and the EMD oil berm issue the Fujioka includes many more "incidents".
In one case labeled , "Subsurface fuel near Generator Unit 5", while digging a trench in 1994 KE "encountered petroleum" and it was reported to the DOH, most likely because independent contractors were used to dig the trench for a water pipeline so a cover-up was impossible because too many people knew about it.
"A black liquid hydrocarbon was observed floating on the water surface (and) KE later recovered approximately 1000 gallons of water and 200 gallons of petroleum." There was also lead and cadmium found in the toxic mess.
The report does not mention how this was mess was disposed of.
Although, according to Fujioka, DOH sent a letter to KE in Oct. 1994 saying it "was concerned as to whether there was more diesel fuel remaining under the concrete pad" and had suggested "flushing the area... with water to dislodge any trapped fuel, ... no additional correspondence regarding this issue is known" and the case remains "active" with the DOH.
There is a note that the DOH said in ’94 that the trench was "likely completed" indicating that DOH hadn’t then and hasn’t now got the foggiest idea of what went on after the apparent spill was discovered and, apparently dropped the ball on the incident.
As to "Spill Records", Fujioka characterizes the information they received- all from KE’s records- this way: "the majority of spills were either less than 25 gallons, or occurred in containment areas and were quickly cleaned up."
But it goes on to say that "It is unclear whether releases of petroleum product greater than 25 gallons were reported to DOH, as required by (law), and whether releases of less than 25 gallons were cleaned up within 72 hours (required to avoid reporting to DOH for releases less than 25 gallons)."
The report says that "a few incidents that involved releases to soil were reported to DOH" including the Oil Berm and Generator 5 incidents. It does not list those other incidents, as a Phase I study should.
This is all that is listed under "Spills", indicating that there could well have been a very high number of unreported or under reported leaks and spills that have been going on for years and continue today. It infers that KE actively covered them up and/ or failed to report them, in violation of existing environmental laws. It certainly bespeaks that further study of the subsurface of the property is indicated.
The only actual KE reported spill cited by Fujioka was a 1991 spill of "approximately 20 gallons" that was released during an excavation to remove an 8,000 gallon underground storage tank, again an incident where, most likely, outside contractors were used so the incident could not be covered up.
This was the earliest report of any incidents at the `Ele`ele site.
There is also the matter of the storage of treated utility poles sitting on the ground leaching toxins into the ground at the `Ele`ele site (as well as at a site in Kapa`a). According to the report the contaminants include "pentachlorophenol, creosote, arsenic and chromium" all known carcinogens.
"KE stated that it is possible that such wood preservatives have leached into the soil at the sites" and that "they have never tested the soil beneath the pole storage area".
This incident was discovered through the cursory visual inspection by done by Fujioka in 2001, that was required as part of the report. The fact that KE never even thought of this being a problem (and didn’t even think of it when they knew that Fujioka was coming to inspect) indicates their level of care regarding toxins and the environment.
It also calls into question the conscientiousness of the 1999 HEER inspection and the various examinations conducted by contracted environmental firms discussed earlier.
The report also says that there has never been any testing at `Ele`ele for PCB’s (as was done at various other KE properties), an extremely toxic chemical that was used in electrical transformers. Many who live in the area including former KE workers have said that it was routine to drain the PCB’s in used or damaged transformers into the ground and bury the transformers themselves on the property.
But of course, the agreement between KIUC and KE specifically forbids due diligence or any subsurface inspection.
30 other "hazardous substances or conditions of concerns" were also discovered during cursory, visual inspection during Fujioka’s site visit including:
· "several leaking transformers in metal pans;
· "fifteen 55 gallon drums of transformer oil, some stored on pallets, some on asphalt and some unprotected on the ground surface. The contents of these drums have leaked onto the asphalt and gravel;.
· "nickel and cadmium batteries and staining on the floor and around the floor drain in the battery room;
· "engine oil leaks in the basement from a couple of the generator units (and)
· "stained spots on the concrete floor"
On the subject of underground fuel lines- most likely a contributing factor if not the main factor in the subsurface toxic melange, Fujioka says that "KE personnel reported that no testing of the lines has been conducted but that they are in the process of developing a procedure to test the lines".
On the subject of PCB’s although "no releases of transformer oil were reported by KE personnel" Fujioka noted at least five incidents at other KE properties that indicated releases of PCB.
So how did that diesel fuel get there? Well, according to Fujioka despite the fact that the "Chevron and BEI (facilities) are located at slightly lower elevations and would be naturally down gradient of the Power Plant property" KE personnel claimed that the "the known diesel contaminant... is suspected to have migrated from the Chevron facility" or maybe from "the county’s `Ele`ele wastewater treatment plant (which) is located up-gradient of the Power Plant".
In determining the source of the contaminants, it should be noted that wastewater does not normally contain thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and that liquids normally follow the laws of gravity.
There is no evidence for where the fuel came from, yet most people- based on KE’s claims- still believe it was from Chevron, although this has not even been investigated, much less proven or determined.
As of today, liability for any cleanup of the site would be KE’s responsibility but liability will transfer to KIUC should the sale be completed under current terms.
4. OUR INFORMANT- AND HIS PICTURES- SPEAK 1001 WORDS
For an overview of the situation we spoke to someone who works at the `Ele`ele site. For obvious reasons he has asked us to hide his identity, fearing he will lose his job if his name is used.
The dozens of photos he showed PNN reveal dozens of leaky, rusted and corroded tanks, valves components, machinery and other items, most of which contain toxic materials. He also showed through words and pictures, the lack of "secondary containment"- ground linings that insure spills can be quickly cleaned up- all over the site.
He also showed how bare bones maintenance has been neglected, especially recently.
He claims that massive capital improvements that are desperately needed at the site have been delayed or postponed ever since KE’s parent company Citizen’s Telecommunications (formerly Citizen’s Utilities) announced that they wanted to sell the company.
He said he has been told this on numerous occasions by those in charge of the power plant and the property.
He said that KE has never been in compliance with laws that provide for secondary containment- physical arrangements so that, if a spill occurs, it can be contained and not leak into the ground. Although, he says, plans were under way to do this extensive work as required by law before the proposed sale was announced, these plans have been put on hold so that the new owner will be saddled with this added hidden cost.
Despite new EPA regulations passed over the last 10 or so year, our source says that KE is determined to "grandfather" units such as transformer sites around the island and on the property, by attempting to "retrofit" many of these facilities- some of which are 50 years old.
The EPA’s "grandfathering" clauses for their new regulations allow for most units that were in place before the laws were passed to keep operating until they need replacement.
KE has reportedly attempted to avoid the massive the costs associated with replacing these facilities in order to meet the new standards – standards which include having to provide secondary containment areas-, by replacing or "retrofitting" a just few of the components, thus maintaining their "grandfathered" status.
But even the environmentally questionable practice of providing grandfathered retrofittings has been apparently abandoned by KE, pending the sale to KIUC.
Although appraisals of the property should be sufficient to determine value, apparently no independent site inspections were ever done at the `Ele`ele plant by any of the various appraisers. Rather, they used KE’s paperwork and standard depreciation charts for their numbers.
In discussions, our source agreed that most people who live in Hawai`i` are aware of the faster rate of rust and corrosion to exposed metals here in the islands, especially to items in close proximity to the salt air of the ocean. The area surrounding the plant is full of metal tanks, drums, pipes, parts, machines etc. and sits within a quarter mile of the ocean.
The need for these improvements- many of which presented dangerous situations years ago and are worse now- has not been disclosed by KE in their proposed sale agreement with KIUC and, according to the documents, KE has specifically banned KIUC from any inspection of the site other than through the Fujioka report, which often paints a pretty picture unless the words are specifically analyzed for the real content.
The source’s pictures have been submitted to a KIUC board member who, so far, has not acted on them.
Through it’s spokesperson Walter Barnes, KIUC’s stand remains that the Fujioka study indicates there are no environmental problems at `Ele`ele and that no further study is needed.
There can be no doubt that KE’s `Ele`ele power plant sits on a toxic waste dump- a "sea" composed of petroleum products and a wide variety of toxic chemicals. Even without the massive anecdotal evidence, the Fujioka report alone plainly leaves this impression upon a critical reading of the document.
So what would it cost to clean up the site- remove, clean and dispose of the contaminated soil?
The site is 11 ½ acres, according to the report. The contaminated soil goes at least 40 feet deep. There are 43,560 square feet in an acre. One 18 wheeler truckload holds about 25 cubic yards.
11.5 acres x 43,560 sq. ft.= 50,0940 x 40 feet deep= 20,037,600 cu. ft/ 27 cu. ft in a cu. yard= 7,42133.33/ 25 cu. ft. per truck=
29,685.333 truckloads of dirt would be generated if the site were to be excavated- and that’s only to a depth of 40 feet (The mess obviously goes deeper- 40 feet is just where a measurable significant amount of diesel fuel was detected) and only for the KE property, whereas the problem is not contained there but spread at least across the road through the Chevron property and all the way to the ocean.
Use of heavy equipment such as loaders, graders, etc., a massive crew of skilled workers on the ground and driving the trucks and other administrative costs have to be factored in. Then of course, the soils have to be "cleaned" if that is even possible with today’s technology.
Where the soil would be dumped or shipped and how much that would cost is a whole other can of worms.
Then there is the consideration of the environmental effect of digging a 40 foot, 11.5 acre hole in the ground near the ocean. The mitigation of the runoff is another factor.
And then there’s the planning- hiring engineers, surveyors, and a squad of people to study the matter even before a plan is devised.
You do the math. The insured amount $25 million dollars might just cover the planning for such a cleanup effort.
It is quite evident that KE had neglected all environmental laws and procedures previous to 1991- it is virtually impossible that there were never any spills prior to that date.
It is also a fact that environmental consciousness was not even an issue prior to the 1970’s on the mainland and not until the late 80’s in Hawai`i and, especially on Kaua`i. It was common practice before then to throw toxins in the ground- oil, gas, paint, battery acid, and a whole array of toxic compounds and metals sit below the surface all over Kaua`i.
It stands to reason that the place that housed the most toxins- a place which for years was the entry and storage point for all of them- would be the biggest recipient of this kind of treatment.
Yet there has never been a subsurface report on what sits below the ground at the site. Even if one looks solely at the Fujioka study, there is ample evidence of a toxic waste dump. The probability for it to be many times worse is so much of a possibility, it becomes a probability unless all those people from Hanapepe are either wrong or lying.
How this factors into the proposed purchase price of $215-250 million is a question the PUC will have to answer but PNN concludes that it would not be prudent to commit to the liability that this situation obviates.
The following letter from Masa Fujioka Associates- at the behest of Greg Gardiner of Kaua`i Island Utilities Cooperative (KIUC)was received in response to PNN's investigative report on the toxic waste dump at Kaua`i electric's `Ele`ele power plant.
PNN's reply follows the letter.
July 23, 2002
MFA Job No. 01346-001
Facsimile No. (808) 632-2462
Kaua`i Island Utility Co-op
2970 Haleko Road, Suite 205
Lihue, Kaua`i, Hawai`i 96766
Attention: Mr. Gregg Gardiner
Subject: Andy Parx Website Article
Regarding Environmental Issues at KE Facilities
Dear Mr. Gardiner,
Masa Fujioka & Associates (MFA) has reviewed the article posted by Mr. Andy Parx on his website. We were considerably dismayed at his inflammatory, grossly inaccurate statements and his allegations that MFA may have covered up environmental concerns associated with KE facilities. We do not believe that anyone will grant this article any serious consideration, so we will not address every inaccurate statement, but we would like to address a few of the repeated themes.
Firstly, Mr. Parx’ inplication that MFA may have covered up environmental concerns, have not done a thorough survey, or have "painted a pretty picture" is pantently ridiculous. Our firm has an outstanding reputation for technical capability, thoroughness and professionalism, and we would not risk our reputation of our firm by conducting careless work or by covering something up. We did a thorough investigation as prescribed by ASTM standards for Phase I environmental surveys. I was personally involved in all aspects of the investigation and report preparation, and the report underwent stringent internal reviews by our principals, who have a combined total of 55 years of environmental experience in Hawaii. Mr. Parx also implies that the State Department of Health (DOH) has not done their job, also a ridiculous claim. Our extensive experience of DOH is that they tend to err on the conservative side of environmental response, and that their assessment of "low priority" (assigned to a few outstanding issues at the `Ele`ele plant) is representative of their minimal concern for these issues.
As an example of inaccuracies by Mr. Parx, he states several times that we conducted a "cursory, drive-by" survey of the `Ele`ele facility. This is a gross misunderstanding of the effort involved in our survey. We first reviewed the extensive environmental documentation provided to us by KE. The MFA team then met with Kaua`i Electric (KE) personnel at the `Ele`ele plant over two days. Our time there included a four-hour interview where we asked top management very detailed and probing questions about all aspects of their operations that may provide and environmental impact. We also conducted approximately 5 hours of walk-through, where we entered every room (including basement and storage spaces) of every building. We asked plant maintenance and engineering personnel probing questions throughout the survey. Our findings from the site survey, including minor incidents of equipment leaks, etc. observed during our survey, are well-documented in our report. The same procedure was followed at other KE facilities. Our team spent a total of 8 days on Kaua`i conducting the physical survey and hundreds of hours on Oahu conducted research.
We found Mr. Parx’ discussion of Port Allen / `Ele`ele history to also be inflammatory. Much space is devoted to anecdotes of toxic waste dumping which have absolutely no basis in fact. Our report discusses the historical use of the property and surrounding areas and summarizes that there is no evidence of contamination from historical use of the property.
Finally, Mr. Parx uses the terms lake/sea/ocean of diesel fuel throughout his article, implying that the ground under the entire plant is contaminated from the ground surface down to the depth of 40 feet below ground surface. Again, these wild statements have no basis in fact and are perhaps the most telling of Mr. Parx’ lack of understanding or comprehension of the environmental issues. This issue is well documented and the implications discussed in our report. Subsurface investigations at Chevron and KE (despite Mr. Parx’ allegations that there have been none) have assessed the plume extending from the Chevron site beneath the road to the KE plant. The plume floats on groundwater and, certainly, neither the entire soil column not the entire site is contaminated. Mr. Parx’ contaminated soil volume calculations and his conjecture that the solution would be to dig a 40–foot by 11.5 acre hole are absurd.
In closing, let us say that we have only briefly rebutted the prevalent themes of Mr. Parx’ article. Again, we assume that anyone reading it would dismiss it on the blatant technical inconsistencies and inaccuracies. If you find that you must defend yourself against the article, we would be happy to address his points in more detail.
Please contact us at 484-5366, if you have questions.
MASA FUJIOKA & ASSOCIATES
A Professional Partnership
Janice C. Marsters, PhD
Dear Ms. Marsters,
Thank you for your strange letter regarding my investigative report http://www.parx.org/articles/july_17_2002.html concerning your Phase I Environmental Assessment for Kaua`i Electric’s (KE) `Ele`ele power plant.
I would have expected some point by point rebuttal had you found fault with any of the facts I presented in my article. But instead I found that, like your original report, you seem to confirm the worst while trying desperately to attack your own conclusions by playing them down.
With a PhD, I would expect a little more critical reading and thinking but perhaps the English language isn’t your forte. I had to go back and look at what I had said to make sure that it was your reading skills rather than my writing skills that were truly deficient.
Despite the string of personal attacks, I believe that you and I agree on many of the environmental matters brought up in the Masa Fujioka Associates (MFA) report and my article.
An actual reading of my article would show that no where did I accuse MFA of any cover-up. And as per the standards for the report, you were not required to independently investigate- as a matter of fact you were prohibited from examining - any of the "incidents" reported by Kaua`i Electric (KE) or found in the paperwork regarding previously noted and reported violations of environmental laws.
In the article I repeatedly stated that MFA did their job. I also stated what that job was. Those who read the article have noted that, contrary to your statement that I professed that "MFA may have covered up environmental concerns", only KE and DOH were mentioned in the context of any alleged "cover-up".
(I was just curious as to how you could defend KE and the Hawai`i State Department of Health (DOH) if you were prohibited from independently investigating their claims of total compliance?
(And if you did illegally look further- as your letter implies- why was there no paper work?... you know, regarding the current continued problems at the EMD Oil Lube Berm... paperwork readily available at DOH.... yeah that’s the one.... the information my investigator uncovered... the documents that were omitted from your report for some reason... yeah, the serious continuing violation of EPA law that’s been outstanding since 1998?... the ones missed by both KE and you?...
(Oh yeah- I almost forget- KE was going to ignore it and literally pave it over.... that’s the one... the hole where the diesel puddle bubbled up out of a pipe trench they were digging... Is the DOH still going to let them "cover it up" with concrete?.... what did they ever do with all that contaminated soil anyway?... did they "clean it" before it went in the Kekaha landfill?)
I’m sure people in Hawai`i will get a kick out of your characterization of DOH when you said "that they tend to err on the conservative side of environmental response.", especially give the lack of follow-up that was apparent just from the documents KE gave you and the ones discovered in government files.
We agree with you when you say DOH’s "assessment of ‘low priority’ (assigned to a few outstanding issues at the `Ele`ele plant) is representative of their minimal concern for these issues". For years many of us here in Hawai`i have been distressed at this " minimal concern" and seeming disregard by DOH for the environmental health of residents, when push comes to shove in terms of conflicts with polluters.
Dozens of major cases (and perhaps hundreds of minor ones) of this type of disregard, delay and paper shuffling have been documented and are readily available though a search of the archives of local and state newspapers.
The most recent of these incidents includes the lack of action this year when a local developer bulldozed a mountain of mud and dirt into the ocean and killed the reef at Pila`a on Kaua`i, not by violating a "plan" but with no permits whatsoever. No legal action has been taken on this matter by DOH other than sending a "you’d better do something by Dec. 31- or else" letter, leading local government officials to continually and severely criticize DOH’s noted lack of enforcement, referring action to the local prosecutor for criminal action.
Yes, yours was, as you say, an "investigation as prescribed by ASTM standards for Phase I environmental surveys". As I pointed out in the article, MFA did a good, if not perfect job... see we agree. But also as pointed out, a Phase I study is by definition (and I repeat and reiterate the phrase and concept) a cursory study- or in your words "by (its) nature, very limited".
Your letter fails to list those ASTM standards, which apparently include gathering solely that which is reported to you by KE, those documents filed by KE in government offices and a "walk through" inspection (in this case, of only five hours duration), as you said. It was quite humorous to see you try to explain how many areas were required to be covered in those five hours (where you found over 30 areas of concern, I might remind you), when you "entered every room... in every building" while maintaining that the five hours testified to the thorough nature of the inspection.
Although the term "drive by" was used idiomatically, I may stand corrected when I called a Phase I study "a preliminary, cursory ‘drive-by’ look at surface issues as discovered and reported by the offenders within the last few years only." I should have said "walk-through" as you did, instead of "drive-by" since they did make you get out of your rent-a-car.
But thanks for confirming that you only conducted a "four-hour interview where (you) asked top management very detailed and probing questions (and) asked plant maintenance and engineering personnel probing questions (didn’t engineering get the "detailed" treatment?)".
I can’t imagine any reasons why they would attempt to hide or cover-up anything, even given the facts that they knew you were prohibited from doing any further probes, that it would have been a crime for them not to have reported previous incidents and the fact that they are trying to sell a toxic waste dump as a prime asset of a $215 million deal.
I am however mystified over your contention that "Subsurface investigations at Chevron and KE (despite Mr. Parx’ allegations that there have been none) have assessed the plume extending from the Chevron site beneath the road to the KE plant." While the second half of the sentence is certainly true, you offer no evidence as to any subsurface investigation and none are mentioned in your report. As a matter of fact, as your report states "no subsurface environmental investigation or sampling was performed" and such investigation was specifically prohibited by KE, as was any follow-up or Phase II study.
You then go on to further mystify by seemingly saying that the second half of you statement isn’t true. Too bad- for a moment, on first reading, I thought we had another point on which we agreed.
By using the term "subsurface investigations" you don’t mean when the maintenance crew dug a hole to repair a pipe and chemical-laden, black diesel fuel gushed out of the ground ? No, I didn’t think so.
We agree further, as stated in your report, that your work product "cannot necessarily apply to the site changes of which this office is not aware and has not had the opportunity to evaluate". I can’t imagine why though you have apparently put your reputation on the line by choosing to refute matters of which you admittedly have no knowledge.
I would hate to think that presenting sites with a clean bills of health no matter what the physical evidence shows, is modus operandi for your company... even if that would be an excellent selling point when polluters are looking for someone to file a whitewash type report.
I’m sure that this is not the reason for your apparent success in the field of environmental consulting.
As to your contention that the heavy-metal and toxic-chemical, cross-contaminated diesel fuel that permeates the site, is a "plume" and cannot be described as a lake/sea/ocean, I know that scientists like yourself are not used to using them but we in the writing community have these things called dictionaries and I would like to point you to one by Miriam Webster’s and their definition of the word "plume- an elongated and usually open and mobile column or band (as of smoke, exhaust gases, or blowing snow)".
Open and mobile- meaning un-contained and moving- intimating spreading and permeating... and, since you’ve misused the word plume to refer to a liquid, following your lead, the characterization of a "sea, lake or ocean is possibly more accurate than your word, plume.
Of course the question remains of how you know this "plume" so intimately as to say that it does not cover the entire area, since no underground testing was performed and, as pointed out in my article, is expressly forbidden by an agreement between the buyer and seller.
But, here again we agree because as you said the "plume extend(s) from the Chevron site beneath the road to the KE plant (to) a depth of 40 feet". Plume... lake... whatever you’d like to call it.
If you want to pin it down, perhaps we need a 3-D computer map of it- oops, sorry... I forgot... it’s not within the Phase I Study limits....
You know, I would hate to start rethinking my original impression and hence position regarding your company’s integrity and, to tell you the truth, until I saw your ad hominem defense of KE in order to preserve your own reputation, I had no doubts as to the integrity of MSA.
But the phrase "methinks thou doth protest too much" keeps coming to mind. Upon reevaluation it occurs to me some might say that there is a possibility that the reason you have 55 years of experience is because, in working for firms like KIUC and others seeking to whitewash environmental requirements while still presenting the facts, they go to you for phrases like "apparently" "most likely" "a low priority" and "seemingly resolved" after describing, in the same sentence, a river of virulent poison that could challenge the river Styx for toxicity.
Actually, upon reflection, maybe I have denigrated you writing skills without proper evaluation of all of your skills. See- we agree more and more, all the time.
But your reliance on the unreproachability of the understaffed underpaid bureaucrats at the industry/ governing-body, revolving door at the DOH notwithstanding is unfortunate. I don’t blame you- I would have to reevaluate my whole life if I were in your position and finally figured out the DOH may not be too competent or caring.
I’m sure upon rethinking all of this, you will seek to clarify your statements- especially those that reflect on your reputation- by confirming the limited nature of your report and telling the Buyer who commissioned the report that any further investigation is their responsibility, not yours.
Most of my article was comprised of quotes from your report. I specifically did not include conjecture on your part and would advise you to refrain from these types of speculation in future jobs if your "reputation" is of any consequence to you.
If you feel so inspired to discuss, point by point, all of the information in your report and my investigative report, or provide further documentation for claims of resolution of environmentally alarming situations, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would however, if you prefer, be willing to fully debate the facts in a public forum.
Publisher and Editor,
Parx News Net (PNN)