by Gary Craft on 2 January 2008
The Emissions Problem
Residents of the Niumalu community have been filing complaints with the D.O.H. since before 2000, when the American Hawaii Cruise Line was operating in Nawiliwili on day trips. The substantial increase in complaints from Niumalu residents over the past few years is reflective of the increase in number and size of the visiting ships and particularly the practice of overnight stays by NCL since 2004. The only time the air pollution complaints are registered is when the
ship(s) is(are) in port.
There are about 130 homes and one small hotel in Niumalu. Estimating 3-4 persons per home; approximately 500 residents are being exposed to cruise ship emissions. Residents often ‘seal-up’ their homes and on occasion have to leave for hours when they are inundated by the ship emissions plume(s). Two of my next-door neighbors (Bob White and Darlene Burgess) and I have had to seek medical attention (ENT Specialists) because of upper-respiratory distress. The
Whites’ are presently installing A/C. The Murayamas’, with a young child, have felt compelled to seek advice from their family physician. These are only my immediate neighbors. I hear of other health complaints as well.
I am a teacher at Kauai High School and have had several bad periods of ship emissions incidents during Kona (Southeast) winds at Kauai High School actually interfering with proper classroom activities. I have reported 5 of those incidents to D.O.H. and school administration and sent two students to the health room with headaches.
Patience and professionalism are characteristics of all our dealings with NCL and the DOH. At our first community meeting on this matter (October ’06) a surprising number of residents (25+) overflowed the intended meeting area. NCL representatives were visibly nervous yet we maintained a respectful dialogue. At our ‘invitation only’, follow-up meeting, on the ship (June ’07), I feel our trust was betrayed. They exposed an arrogant ‘big-business’
attitude telling us to address any further complaints to the DOH.
A switch to Diesel fuel would have been a responsible, sensitive, environmentally sound temporary decision, but because of the additional expense NCL chose profits over people’s health. A number of residents have suggested that I have been naïve and idealistic in my approach to this issue. Disillusioned by the DOH and NCL, they are advocating protest actions at Nawiliwili Harbor with support offered from political action groups such as Hui–R, West Kauai
I have never voiced opposition to the cruise lines; only the fuel they are burning while in Nawiliwili. Trade winds support our islands national air quality ‘attainment’ status but, ironically, they are responsible for the ‘direct-hit’ by the cruise ships’ Bunker Fuel Emission plume through the Niumalu community. No other state harbors have the unique and unfortunate geographical orientation of a residential community _ mile directly downwind.
From the first meeting at my home (early ’06) with NCL’s Denise Hiyashi (Public Relations) and Dennis Yoshida (Environmental Engineer), all I have sought for immediate relief is a switch to Diesel while in port; an increasing worldwide trend and required in California ports.
The impacts as described above seriously affect numerous residences and their occupants and interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of life and property. This is defined in Hawaiian environmental rules as “Air Pollution”:
("Air pollution" means the presence in the outdoor air of substances in quantities and for durations which may endanger human health or welfare, plant or animal life, or property or which may unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property throughout the State and in such areas of the State as are affected thereby, but excludes all aspects of employer-employee relationships as to health and safety.) (HAR, DOH Chapter 11-60.1-1 Definitions)
The same regulations in Chapter 11-60.1-2, Prohibition of Air Pollution, place restrictions on causing air pollution:
(No person, including any public body, shall engage in any activity which causes air pollution or causes or allows the emission of any regulated or hazardous air
pollutant without first securing approval in writing from the director.)
The complainants believe that cruise ship operators have not been assessing air pollution implications of their activities prior to engaging in such activities and, consequently, have not implemented preventative and/or remedial actions. In addition to health and enjoyment of life issues, this will also lead to substantial losses of property values when disclosed prior to real estate transactions.
State Response to Complaints
Citizen complaints resulted in repeated efforts by the air pollution agency to perform air sampling by various methods and at various locations. Since the sampling was time averaged and the problem is sporadic and episodal, eighteen months of effort have not led to conclusive data.
Responding to a recent letter from another affected resident, Governor Lingle, indicated among other things, that the State could undertake compiling an emission inventory but suggesting that multiple source effects and variable meteorological condition would not be helpful:
(Finally, the DOH can estimate the emissions from cruise ships and other sources. However, due to the varying meteorological conditions, different ships in port and the interaction between the emissions from different sources the most appropriate approach to identify and resolve the air pollution issue is with air quality monitoring.)
We respectfully disagree with this assessment since almost two years of the monitoring approach have had absolutely not led to the slightest abatement of our problem. Ambient air quality monitoring simply is not intended to be used to identify specific air quality problems from individual sources.Needed Approach
A port wide emissions inventory would approach the issue from the suspected source side. Emission inventories are one of the oldest and most useful tools for the assessment of potential air quality situations and also as a planning tool. Understanding the emissions types and rates from each source combined with approved dispersion modeling has long served as one of the most accurate and predictable ways to assess air emissions and their potential impacts.
This approach should have been used during the environmental assessment (EA) phase prior to the Nawiliwili pier improvements to accommodate increased cruise ship activities. However, the EA completely failed, did not comply with applicable regulations, and drew an unsupportable conclusion of “Finding Of No Significant Impact” (FONSI). It did so by not considering secondary impacts by the cruise ships contrary to applicable regulations:
(§11-200-12 Significance Criteria
A) In considering the significance of potential environmental effects, agencies shall consider the sum of effects on the quality of the environment, and shall evaluate the overall and cumulative effects of an action.
B) In determining whether an action may have a significant effect on the environment, the agency shall consider every phase of a proposed action, the expected consequences, both primary and secondary, and the cumulative as well as the short-term and long-term effects of the action. In most instances, an action shall be determined to have a significant effect on the environment if it: …….)
Even though the EA cited a NCL study predicting a substantial increase in traffic by 2007, the EA opted to treat the situation as “no change” and, therefore, no impact from the increased cruise ship traffic was assessed. The EA was thus improperly conducted and must, at minimum, be amended to consider the cruise ship impacts. After all, the project and the EA were undertaken to specifically deal with an increase in cruise ship traffic. This was indicated in
the EA by the consultant who had conducted the air quality portion of the study. (“Should conditions substantially change, another assessment may be justified.”) A proper emissions inventory with subsequent dispersion modeling would be an integral part of an amended EA.
Initiative and leadership at this point can help resolve the air pollution problem experienced by residents and users of the Nawiliwili area while at the same time preempting lawsuits that seem to be inevitable considering the many precedents being set by the “Superferry” case. Residents have a strong case against the State for allowing air pollution to occur without prior evaluation as required by Hawaii’s environmental review laws; the Superferry operators
also have a very good case having been singled out for consideration in an EA (in both cases for harbor improvement actions taken at the same harbor). Certainly one, perhaps both parties, are predictably going to undertake such action once more light has been shed on the issues. The Superferry has not yet harmed a fly, has been appointed a villain and is included in the EA; the cruise ships have harmed many people, yet have been excluded from a similarly required review.
As an immediate stop-gap measure a switch from bunker fuel to marine diesel would provide relief to the citizens while allowing the proper reviews that are required by law.