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Health Department Cites
HC&S for Air Quality Violations

Updated 12:25 PM HST, June 24, 2014
Posted 08:51 AM HST, June 24, 2014
HC&S Puʻunēnē Mill in Kahului. Photo by Wendy Osher.

HC&S Puʻunēnē Mill in Kahului. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health Clean Air Branch today announced that it cited Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company for excess emission and reporting violations for alleged incidents between 2009 and 2013 in Puʻunēnē on Maui.

The Notice and Finding of Violation and Order included the assessment of a $1,335,000 fine for the alleged violations.

State health officials say HC&S may request a hearing to contest the violations within 20 days of receiving the order.

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar has indicated that they will contest the notice. General Manager Rick W. Volner said the DOH reviewed a five-year period (2009 to 2013), and alleges violations related primarily to periods of excess visible emissions and operation of the wet scrubbers installed to control particulate matter emissions from the boiler stacks.

Volner said all incidents were self-reported by HC&S to the DOH prior to DOH’s review, and there is no indication that these deviations resulted in any violation of health-based air quality standards.

He issued a statement saying the following:

“Operation of sugar mill boilers is extremely challenging, particularly when combusting sugarcane fiber (bagasse), which has varying degrees of moisture content. We acknowledge that over the past five years there have been certain deviations from required operating procedures for the facility’s air pollution controls. HC&S recognizes its responsibility to properly operate and maintain its facilities at all times. For over a century, HC&S has placed the highest priority on complying with all environmental regulations applicable to its operations. We have performed a comprehensive review of our air permit compliance program and have implemented corrective actions to address the matters raised in the NFVO. We intend to work closely with the DOH to ensure that any deviations from regulatory standards at the Pu‘unene Mill are promptly resolved,” said Rick W. Volner, General Manager, HC&S.

The NFVO alleges numerous violations and includes an administrative penalty of $1.3 million, which Volner said HC&S intends to contest. “These violations were unintentional, and the result of operating a very complex milling operation, and we regret that they occurred. However, we also disagree with DOH’s assessment of the number of violations, as we believe many of the cited incidents did not violate any laws. We also believe that the proposed penalty is excessive, particularly given that each of the incidents cited in the NFVO was identified and self-reported by HC&S to DOH. Further, there is no indication that these incidents resulted in violations of health-based air standards. We intend to meet with the DOH as soon as possible to resolve this matter,” said Volner.

According to the state Health Department, it conducted extensive records reviews of the company’s semi-annual reports and other data, in which the department documented more than 400 alleged violations.

The notice includes a four part documentation of findings that can be found at the following direct links: 7  violations; 80 violations; 107 violations; and 220 violations.

The alleged infractions involved a variety of issues including planned shutdowns that occurred to make repairs of fix leaks and situations that resulted in low Dp or flow at the facility with no deviation report filed.

State officials note that the Clean Air Branch is tasked with ensuring that companies comply with state and federal emission standards to minimize air pollution impacts on the public.

This includes the review and approval of air permits, and the evaluation and enforcement of state and federal air standards.

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  • josh

    That plant has been polluting the Island for 1/2 a century.

  • TSL

    Good by HC&S it;s been a heck of a run, we will not miss you!At the bankruptcy auction many will have opportunity to work with real community grass root”s people who have capital,knowledge,wisdom to plan for Maui’s future.We MUST start now for our future health and welfare depend on it!

    • not so smart after all

      “Good bye”not (good by) learn to spell.

      • Missing the point

        Wow, relax spelling police. If you read the whole comment, that was the only misspelled word. The other words were much harder to spell but writer spelled it all correctly.

        • not so smart after all

          Your spacing ain’t all that great also.

          • still not so smart

            heck of a run, we will not miss you!At the bankruptcy


    • TSL

      Good-by:farewell,Good-bye:(Contraction of God be with you).(Funk& Wagnall’s Standard Desk Dictionary)Copyright 1964,1966,1969,1976 they could be wrong!

      • and still not to smart

        You really think their going out of business you’re not only not to smart but also not to bright. Only idiots would think it. Sorry but you’re going to suck your thumb allot longer then you expect.

        • Maui_Mike

          Since you are trying to improve our spelling and grammar, I will help you out: not only not to smart but also not to bright, not only not too smart but also not too bright. And allot instead of a lot…..hope that helps in your mission for better sentence structure. And even your screen name should be not too smart, instead of to smart, completely different connotations.

          • Missing the point

            Pretty funny Maui Mike. Got a little dizzy reading your post.

          • Maui_Mike

            I apologize, my posts often have that effect on people!

        • MM3

          I am appalled at your lack of class for continuing this charade. Does it make you feel good about yourself to point out everyone else’s mistakes? If so, then I feel sorry for your apparent lack of self-esteem. I hope you find other ways to validate yourself.
          You need to move on. People like to read remarks that are related to the subject matter, not ones that criticize each other. Stay focused on the intended reason for the forum.

          • Maui_Mike

            Well said!

  • thisguy

    “Operation of sugar mill boilers is extremely challenging, particularly when combusting sugarcane fiber (bagasse), which has varying degrees of moisture content. ”

    You don’t get to have an excuse for pollution. I suffer every time you burn sugarcane. That fire on Sunday about sent me to the hospital.

    You need to run less material when it burns more or update your technology. Your pollution is horrible, you may own the land but you don’t own the air and you are polluting my air.

    They are able to harvest larger yields in Brazil with Green Technology.

    Green Technology also means more jobs, less pollution and more revenue for the company.

    Innovation is the key to growth for any business and HC&S needs to get with the times, it is a win-win for everyone.

  • Eddie

    I’ll bet that not one of the HC&S crybaby’s were born on this island.
    Oh, and add the anti GMO retards to that.
    If you don’t like Maui, buy a one way ticket home.

    • Maui_Mike

      Very original, it’s strange to lament over the plantation days when many lived in indentured servitude and poverty, sugar is far from a cultural thing, and certainly does not quantify a racial or cultural aspect being attributed to it, let them plant coffee, it would be easier to sell anyway.

    • PaiaGirl

      not very thinly disguised racism. Since when do some residents have fewer rights to protect their health than others.

    • Erik

      If you are so lazy that you will do nothing to protect Maui, buy a one way ticket outta here.

    • Mahukaawenui

      Yep. Most of these “anti” folks are wealthy white people from somewhere else that already have theirs and feel they know better than the “simple” Maka`ainana.
      This to them justifies their right to regulate, ban, and just tell the rest of us what’s good or bad for us as we go about our day to day lives.
      They are easy to spot being surrounded by a thick air of pretentiousness and can often be seen on expensive bikes in flashy racing wear in the middle of the lane so that you know they own the road.

      • Mr T

        Having monetary wealth and having the wisdom to know a problem when you see it are two totally different things. But maybe I’m wrong and dollar bills and coins can be used as contacts and the “wealthy white people” you speak of really do have some sort of super vision that allows them to see the things others are missing? I hope they can’t see my underwear too….

  • PaiaGirl

    The discussion of this should include that this is a COAL burning plant. Every other sugar mill in the U.S. runs their process heat and electricity from bagass (cane left-overs). However THIS mill burns about 1/3 COAL. Why? Because they sell about 1/3 the energy they produce to MECO.

    So another way of looking at it is that the coal they are burning is solely to support their electric sales to MECO.

    But they are coming under the looser boiler standards for emissions.


    The heavy metals, NOx and SOx all fall on our kids in Kahului and Wailuku. HC&S’s irresponsibility in not complying with the pathetically inadequate emissions standards they are SUPPOSED to meet (let alone standards for a coal fired electrical plant) is HARMING OUR CHILDREN.

    • wndpwr

      You are right about the coal. I suspect many people are not aware of this. I am curious how tightening emission standards for coal fired power plants will play out for HC&S…

    • Dirty Secret

      Thank you! No one knows they are burning coal, just look at the gigantic uncovered coal pile sitting outside across from the museum. This is as dirty as a coal plant can get. All to sell it back to MECO! #Mauisdirtysecret

  • bob

    HC&S goes out of business… Prime real estate for sale. Sounds good, more hotels and houses.. We need more work for the construction industry.

  • kans

    Finally, but we all know it is just a slap on their wrist.. Pay offs pay offs pay offs… That’s the Maui way.

  • john

    Sugar is a stinking massive pollutant and should have a class 1 drug rating with 180 thousand deaths world wide every year but the real point is why when we import 86% of our food no one cares that one of most perfect AG. lands in the world is doing nothing but producing poison and the rotten mindless politicos like Woodson keep saying the subsidized sugar is producing jobs.I would not care if food was subsidized.It should be the number one priority of everyone on Maui to see that this valuable AG treasure gets put into food production. Do I really need to list all the benefits of putting people on the land to grow food?

    • Maui_Mike

      I don’t see how anyone could argue with that logic, food to help alleviate the import of food makes good sense, a coffe plantation seems viable as well, coffee is always in demand and very marketable.

      • Mahukaawenui

        Do you not understand how business works? If HC&S could make more at growing coffee they would be growing coffee.

        • TSL

          In business you & I would have gone bankrupt long ago!The good old day’s of uncle Dan Inouye are gone,Boy did he bring home the bacon,them day’s are gone!Why grow any thing else?The grass practicaly grow’s it’s self,with public water from east maui!I want a deal like that!Go get them Neil!(election year)!

        • Maui_Mike

          Let it suffice to say I completely understand where their motivation comes from, and it’s not profit from sugar, that has been losing money for a long time now, but they don’t want to shut down production on it after such a long fight to keep it here, they could and should change crops, the day will come when they will have no choice.
          I will have to respectfully disagree with your analysis of the situation.

    • farmers in the del

      Please do, list all the benefits that you’re talking about. Lets hear it tell us please. Maybe we can learn from your ideas and your knowledgeable mind.

  • iamKahuna

    hate to see them go but it would not hurt my feelings if we grew something we could actually eat… wondering about the photosynthesis thing…

  • FilteringThruRhetoric

    I read, “Operation of sugar mill boilers is extremely challenging, particularly when combusting sugarcane fiber (bagasse), which has varying degrees of moisture content. We acknowledge that over the past five years there have been certain deviations from required operating procedures for the facility’s air pollution controls. HC&S recognizes its responsibility to properly operate and maintain its facilities at all times.”
    I heard, “Our business is hard and we fail.”
    Accountability? Nah.

    • Easy to criticize

      The business IS hard and so is complying with the myriad of complex and expensive regulations. Until you know what you’re talking about by at minimum, running a manufacturing business in America, please don’t be so flippant.

  • Mr T

    I think one of the big problems here is that the fines are being based on “self reported” data. Shouldn’t a nonpartisan third party should be responsible for collecting air quality measurements, or did I miss something?

    Also, if HC&S self-reported the data, don’t you think they would have been smart enough to know whether or not the information would be flagged as a potential infraction in advance? If that’s so, then why did the million dollar fine circus roll into town?

    On a separate note, I understand that while the HC&S does pollute the air and ground with most of its activity, what will happen to the 800 or so laborers currently employed (noted a in past article) by the company if it were to close shop? Isn’t it a little too cavalier to say they should go out of business? Albeit, I agree on the need to find a way to push greener methods of refinement and for more stringent standards, especially when public health is concerned.

    To the those saying the equivalent of “if you don’t like it leave”… Grow up people!

  • Johnnyboy

    Wealthy white people move to Maui because they claim to like the lifestyle. Yet they bring their pushy ways from America. Ban this, stop that, save something else. At the same time places like Kihei have been turned into a money-worshipping whorehouse with trashy businesses owned and operated by wealthy white people. Please just go back to where you came from. Our island, our environment, our lifestyle, our culture has been destroyed by development made to accommodate you. Just shut up about the sugar cane already.

    • Maui_Mike

      You do know the things you mention were mostly brought here by wealthy white people right?….and you want to defend it and fault it at the same time….you can’t have it both ways my friend.

      • Maui for Life

        When u say something like that are u referring to a lack of respect to native Hawaiian People that were here long before u Mike?

        • Maui_Mike

          That could not be further from the truth, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the host culture, and a very deep connection to it, it was a wise kumu who in fact pointed out to me that these islands did not spring up from the sea with people on them, Hawaiians trace their roots to Bora Bora, Tahiti, Somoa, etc., my only point was that we all immigrated here at some point, albeit at different times and under very different circumstances, the “go back where you came from” analogy is really lame, so is the assertion that white locals care less or have less right to speak on issues, it’s just silly.
          But I mean no disrespect whatsoever, I sincerely apologize if I offended you or anyone, that was not my intention.

          • Mikey

            You mean “Samoa”…

          • Maui_Mike

            Indeed I did, sorry for the typo, it was my error.

  • what if

    west maui is a dried up dusty waistland since the sugar cane ceased to exist……can you imagine all those fields from pukalani to maalaea empty with weeds and dust……you think kihei is dusty now…….just wait………..all that green gone………..think about it……..I’m not for or against but stating a vision

    • Maui_Mike

      I could not agree more, that is absolutely true, and the reason they are backed so heavily, it’s not culture or nostalgia, it’s a green central maui as you say….I simply feel like it could be green with a more profitable and sustainable choice of crops…..but I am certainly no expert, it just seems logical because sugar is barely able to make a profit if at all.

      • Maui Mike ???????

        Eh, Maui Mike make up your mind on what side you stand for.

      • think it all the way through

        They’re “backed so heavily” by most local people because the plusses of having them stay in business far outweigh the negatives. We’ve seen what’s happened on all the other islands in the areas where sugar has gone out. And yes, thank you for admitting that you are no expert….if it were more profitable to grow other crops, they would.

        • Maui_Mike

          I mostly hear only negative things about HC&S from the locals I know, most have no special feelings about an industry that did so much to bring the Hawaiian people misery and heartache in the old plantation days.
          With all due respect to you, if they chose to grow any other crop they could do so at a much higher profit than sugar, which is barely profitable at all, I’m sure there is change coming eventually, it’s been a good run, hopefully it will be positive change when it does come, mahalo for sharing your thoughts.

        • TSL

          Thought it through and I would bet the farm sugar as you know it here on Maui will be gone by 2020!Why because #1 it’s a comfort food,wait it’s not a food it’s a food additive!#2 federal government will stop this contrversial agribusiness subsidies!It looks like the state has got there feet in the fire and is breaking the good old boy’s strangle hold that local politician’s have!The majority of people say Aloha HC&S good luck with the reorganization!

      • twinkies are life

        yes but that would require someone on the take doing something right…….no chance in hell on that one, lined pockets are more important that ‘sustainability” which is just a political marketing term BS term………..the planet cannot sustain the human population…..we are the problem and we think we have a solution……….the planet knows otheriwse

    • just adding on

      And lets not forget wild brush fires.

      • think it all the way through

        you mean arson????

    • joe

      you must be really uneducated, all people are asking for is to have the cane havested by machine and not burned. The cane is paid for by us tax payers, you not included I asume.

    • boogalu

      then all of you will be crying……..why don’t they plant something, why don’t they do anything about the dust, the fields are empty why why don’t they do something……..some one said it …..build stuff becuase construction is the only industry that needs a job.then the complaint willy come in……..maui is over built, how did that happen……..as far as real estate there is no way in hell they will let that much land go at once……….can you imagine what that would do to prices?………….they would shoot themselves in the foot and ruin everyone on the island that thinks their land is worth something……….what a mess

  • 808burt

    Id bet everyone of you moved here in the last 15-20 years…am I right? Ive seen kihei in the early days before the kiawe got plowed for mainland homes, cant wait for you all to eat the dust when the cane is gone….

    • Maui_Mike

      I always find it interesting that it matters how many years a person has been here matters, how long does one have to live here to have an opinion?….I have had family here since the 30’s, and lived here part time for over 40 years before making it permanent….can I have a say?….who do I ask?…….sound lolo?….it is.

      • stand alone

        Hey, Maui Mike I’m still waiting for that replacement Corp you’re talking about on the west side.
        So when where what will it be? Egg plant and string bean?.
        I’m waiting……

        • stand alone

          Oops correction ” crop” not Corp.

        • Maui_Mike

          Agreed my friend, but let’s face it, central Maui is a different scenerio and owned by a different company, but you make a valid point just the same, though I doubt the results in central Maui would play out the same as they did on the west side.

          • Stand alone

            To give you my point of views on if the last of the sugar Plantation goes out of buisness the whole central maui “will” turn in to the same as the west side for a very, very long time. Not only that I’m waiting for the/a replacement crop/s for the west side cane fields. I’m also waiting for the replacement crop/s for the died out pineapple fields out on the west side. And also still waiting for the replacement crops for the sugar cane fields of the old wailuku sugar company. All those company’s out of buisness and nothing but dried dusty and with great potentials of wild brush fires. And yes, think of this, dry dusty brown ugly fields on the west side and central, North,East, South side the visitors industry’s will plummet and unemployment will sour. What makes anyone think that central maui will be different from all the others. Then what will happen when the trade winds start to blow the south side gets dust out then the people on the south side will blame the lands owners. Just another thing they’ll fine to complain about. There will be no end for the complainers. We’ll see what happens when that time comes.

          • Maui_Mike

            I share many of your concerns, but like it or not, sugar industry will go away eventually because it is not a money maker, I hope central Maui does not suffer the same fate as those you mention, you are right, time will tell.
            Mahalo for your insight.

      • Tired Listen to Baboozes

        How long? Not sure, but certainly longer than you have been here.There are Hawaiian families here whose ancestors got here around the time of Christ. Many locals have ancestors who arrived during the 1800s and built this community with sweat, hard work, and sacrifice for future generations. Calling yourself Maui Mike and living here “part time” for 40 years does not make you kama‘āina–which incidentally has NOTHING to do with your drivers license. Who do you ask? How about a Hawaiian kupuna? They are the only ones with opinions that matter.

        • Maui_Mike

          I failed to mention that the 40 years part time ended in early 2005, I have been here full time since, and some of the part time was long term, including my entire junior year in high school was spent here on Maui,…..I don’t know if this more complete information changes anything….but with that said, I have found the many true Hawaiian friends I have to be very accepting and gracious to me, I have spent a great deal of my 50 years here with family, I think I will feel validated by those I know and by virtue of the taxes I pay. My questions were more rhetorical than anything else.

          • Tired Listen Baboozes

            So, you have been a full-time Maui resident for all of 9 years? Yeah, wow, you one real keiki ‘o ka āina alright. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha.

          • Maui_Mike

            You are a very immature person, with an entitlement complex, fortunately those like you are in very small numbers, as I indicated before, I don’t need the validation of people like you, people like you who give nothing but ridicule and pass irrational baseless judgement on others are pathetic, you have my pity, nothing more, nothing less.
            You are firmly in the minority, I am with the majority, and we laugh at those like you.

          • Tired Listen to Baboozes

            Oh wow laulau, I am soooo insulted NOT! You, like most other mainland invasive species, have the entitlement complex. You all feel entitled to change Maui to your liking and you do not give a rip about anyone else.

          • Maui_Mike

            in my case I have never jumped on the change this bandwagon, but that’s just one of many things your wrong about, seems to be your pattern.
            I really came to love Maui for what it already was, not what it could be, with that said, sometimes change is for the better.
            A conversation can in fact be had without being childish, we all have a right to our own opinion…..respect.

          • TSL

            The truth is one path’s are many!Many tribe’s one earth,we need to do our part to heal self & planet!Are need’s are allway’s taken care of!The heart & soil of agribusiness is very sick,but the disease can be reversed,if we move in a positive direction(co-existance,co-prosperity)unfortunately agribusiness is given USDA,FDA,EPA questionable standards that were put on the book’s by corrupt politician’s who owe favor’s to the corporate money bag’s,so come out tomorrow 6/30/14 1:30 pm county building and testify!Speak your mind!!

  • MAT

    Maui was just voted “The Best Place to visit in the USA” and part of the reason is the beautiful green sugar cane! Shut down HC&S and 800+ employees will be without jobs and the tourist will stop coming to Maui and the hotels, restaurants etc… will also shut down. Is this what we really want? Let’s work on finding a solution to this problem real soon instead of condemning HC&S. Think about it…

    • Maui_Mike

      I can only speak for myself, but HC&S has been using those jobs as leverage for decades, I don’t buy into the sky is falling notion, they have said many times that sugar is unsustainable and barely profitable, if they ever transition to other crops perhaps jobs will be added, not lost, but I don’t believe for a minute that they would be allowed to let central maui become a dust bowl out of spite….highly unlikely.
      I hope only for the best outcome, regardless of what that turns out to be.

  • john

    What is this bickering we all need each other? How long would this island have lasted against the Axis? Waste is the subject. When government wastes 750 billion dollars on Russian helicopters for Afghans they did not know how to fly and years and two trillion dollars on Iraq that was lost in a few days? Food is the number one thing we need! There should be thousands of us on top of the mindless politicians to find a way to put our money and precious land into food production .I guess the advertisers have made people forget what food is! Google how many people die from sugar.Stop the waste stop the bad guys always win.

  • Mikey

    Please read the book “Sugar Blues” by William Dufty.

  • me

    exactly… it has been going on for years and many families have moved here to work there. now they will shut down cause they have to pay a fine. stop complaining and move somewhere else if it bothers you. it was here first

  • TSL

    One question:where does HC&S put the burn’t coal bottom ash?Iam shure you use the best coal,the higher the BTU factor the more mercury,uranium,thorium,arsenic, toxin’s!When the class action law suit is settled the people with the longest tenure on maui collect the largest judgement payment!

  • Mikey

    Do you people remember when Mark Hodges ran for Mayor? He had a plan to buy HC&S with a bond issue or security offering. The owners would be the people of Maui County. Land usage would be dictated by the needs of the community, not corporate profits. Maybe we can revisit this idea.

  • datruth

    HC&S and A&B suck and should be sued by the people of Maui as well as the Hawaiian community!

  • datruth

    In case everyone don’t know this sugar cane was a canoe plant brought over by the Hawaiians originally, it was the plantations that stole the lands and made them into fields, there were no fields originally, the Hawaiians found themselves pushed further off the land by the plantations, when the Hawaiians got decimated by disease brought by the white man and there were not enough Hawaiians to work the plantations (they needed about 3000 laborers to run the fields and guess what, no burning) they imported Chinese laborers and so on. The Hawaiians main food was taro but because of the fields they were unable to maintain this culture. The plantations were originally created for profit period. The fact that HC&S, A&B and all their relations are committed to destroying Maui and it’s people is criminal, and their greed and connection to MECO are unfathomable, we should pay close attention to what politicians support these criminals, this is the best way to get them shut down by doing our homework and voting for the right candidates who are against HC&S, A&B, monsato and so on.

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