MECO says its toxic releases have declined over the years

Maui Electric Co.’s power plants at Kahului and Maalaea sent nearly 250,000 pounds of sulfuric acid, in the form of mist, from smokestacks in 2012, according to a report on toxic chemical releases by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The report shows that, in 2012, 180,000 pounds of sulfuric acid came from MECO’s Kahului plant on Hobron Lane, and 69,000 pounds were emitted from the Maalaea plant on North Kihei Road.

MECO spokeswoman Kau’i Awai-Dickson said that the toxic substance is generated by fuel combustion and is in the exhaust from smokestacks.

However, Hawaii’s air quality ranks among the best in the nation, she said, and, “here on Maui, the Kahului and Maalaea power plant toxic release inventory releases have decreased year over year.”

In 2011, the Kahului power plant emitted 190,021 pounds of airborne sulfuric acid, and Maalaea had 94,299 pounds, Awai-Dickson said.

She said that while fluctuations in MECO’s toxic releases occur based on demand and the sulfur content in the fuel, Maui Electric has increased its clean energy activities, including more rooftop solar power and wind power generation with the addition of Kaheawa and Auwahi wind farms. As of the end of 2012, almost 21 percent of Maui Electric’s sales came from renewable energy sources, she said.

The Maui Electric facilities are among 37 Hawaii facilities that reported a total of 2.7 million pounds of toxic chemical releases during 2012. Hawaii’s total reported on-site and off-site releases increased when compared with 2011 data.

Highlights of data from 2012 in Hawaii show that since 2011:

* Air releases increased 2 percent.

* Water releases increased 6 percent.

* On-site land releases increased 46 percent.

* Underground injection releases increased 21 percent.

* Total off-site transfers have decreased 9 percent

For detailed Hawaii information, see the state fact sheet at

The top five releasing facilities are Hawaiian Electric’s Kahe power plant, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Hawaii, the Chevron petroleum refinery, AES Hawaii Inc. (a coal-fired power plant) and HECO’s Waiau power plant – all on Oahu.

Nationally, total releases of toxic chemicals decreased 12 percent from 2011-12, the EPA said in its toxics release inventory report this week.

“Our yearly analysis of chemicals being used by industry helps residents understand which chemicals are used in their neighborhoods,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This year, we have enhanced our fact sheet system to aid in getting toxics release inventory information about specific locations.”

The annual report provides people with critical information about their communities, the EPA said. The agency collects data on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country.

“Maui Electric takes its responsibility to the environment seriously and has annually submitted its toxics release inventory emissions to the Environmental Protection Agency since reporting year 1994,” Awai-Dickson said. The inventory list “lets the public know about the amounts and locations of chemicals used or produced in their communities. It is a list of amounts of chemicals used. It is not a list about the risk from chemicals.”

Awai-Dickson said that Hawaii is among the states with the lowest amounts of toxics release inventory emissions, ranking near the bottom of 56 states and territories reporting to the EPA.

* Brian Perry can be reached at