State warns of elevated levels of sulfur dioxide on Big Island
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#1 Mar 28, 2008
For at least the past year there has been a sulfur monitoring station at Ka'u High School in Pahala. Even though the facility is on our campus, we find it very difficult to get timely reports from the agency that is supposed to be monitoring the data. Yes, we can get the data faxed to the school, if we go through two or three phone calls to get to the data source.
It is obvious that this is not an efficient method to disseminate what should be public data. We have been repeatedly assured that someone is working to move the data to an internet site, but nothing seems to ever happen.
The school has experienced several instances where we have had to cancel recess for the elementary students, and we are concerned for the safety of the student and general population.
However, the recent scare tactics seem to be tied to a new group of 'emergency management specialists' with the national park. I fear that Mayor Kim is feeling a bit weak in his mayoral role, and sees his ability to push arond the residents of Puna under his Civil Defense leadership as a way of returning to his glory days. Any plans to go door to door in the low density subdivisions of Puna to order a general evacuation are highly unrealistic, and a simple change in the direction of the breeze may make the entire effort moot.
The twenty-mile radius of the proposed evacuation seems a bit contrived, also. There is a sensor at Pahala, and it did record high levels of Sulfur dioxide, but are there another dozen or so sensors between there and Na'alehu to see where the high levels terminated. If not, then we should estimate that the danger area is more like thirty miles in radius, which will include all of Puna, and most of Hilo. Hilo residents have experienced some days of high SO2 levels. Can anyone seriously propose that we try to evacuate th 50 to 60 thousand residents of the affected area? To where? On what roads? In how much time? A far better idea may well be to just tell people to hunker down in their homes, close the windows and not exert themselves and perhaps issue [or make available at low cost] room size air filters for every family in the area.
Pu'u O'o has been generating similar emissions for over twenty years, and there are homes within a relatively short distance of that vent, yet no one seems to be concerned about those residents. I would love to see some actual data, improvements in the dissemination of that data, and some reasonable approaches to any major federal or county effort to protect our citizens.
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