Even though it hasn’t erupted in a grand explosion of magma and smoke, the Kilauea Volcano poses some serious risks. The fissures have cut off neighborhoods. The lava is burning down houses, and the smoke is highly toxic. Now the lava flows are encroaching on a geothermal power plant, creating a new kind of dilemma.
“Crews worked into the night to cap the 11th and final well at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, which provides about 25 percent of the Big Island’s power,” The Daily Mail reports.
“Governor David Ige revealed on Tuesday morning that the closest lava front was about 100 yards from the plant as officials feared it could trigger the release of deadly hydrogen sulfate gas.”
The plant has wells that extend down to 8,000 feet. They tap into hot water underground. The steam is used to power turbines that produce electricity.
“It’s not easy to predict where it’s going to go, and when it’s going to get there,” Tom Travis, of Hawaii Emergency Management, explained to reporters.
The state has issued numerous warnings, and plant workers are doing what they can to mitigate risk. 60,000 gallons of pentane, a flammable gas used in the turbines, has been moved off-site. They’ve pumped cold water into the wells, and are going to attempt to plug them.
The fear is that the lava, when it hits the wells, would release hydrogen sulfate gas.
When the lava hits water, fumes and steam billow into the air in a mixture known as laze (lava-haze). This often carries fine particles of volcanic glass into the air.
“If one were to be near the laze, because of the various acids, it would be corrosive to the eyes, the nose and respiratory tract, and the skin,” Dr Alvin Bronstein from the Hawaii State Department of Health explained to DM.
The laze, which is already being created where the lava is flowing into the ocean, can be deadly. There were two fatalities from laze back in 2000. The amount of laze being created now is much more voluminous, and the winds can push it far from its point of origin.
Videos being shot by one of the local helicopter tour companies are capturing just how close the flow is coming to the plant.