There’s nothing sweet about the trouble Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) is now in. On June 24, the state Department of Health’s Clean Air Branch announced that it was fining the only sugar mill left in the state more than $1.3 million for alleged violations in emissions and reporting from 2009 to 2013 at its Pu‘unene sugar mill.
That’s pretty sour news. Though Rick Volner, Jr., the mill’s general manager, wasted no time sending out a statement saying that his company would contest the fines, his defense wasn’t exactly compelling.
“We acknowledge that over the past five years there have been certain deviations from required operating procedures for the facility’s air pollution controls,” Volner said in his company’s news release on the fines. “Operation of sugar mill boilers is extremely challenging, particularly when combusting sugarcane fiber (bagasse), which has varying degrees of moisture content,” Volner said in his company’s response to the fines. “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.”
As for the future, Volner said his company has “performed a comprehensive review of our air permit compliance program and have implemented corrective actions to address the matters raised” by the Dept. of Health and added that HC&S intends “to work closely with the DOH to ensure that any deviations from regulatory standards at the Pu‘unene Mill are promptly resolved.”
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