Hawaii Volcano Eruption: Lava From Kilauea Threatens To Strike Power Plant

Experts fear toxic gas could be released should the lava reach wells outside the plant.

Hawaii volcano kilauea erupting since May 3.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

Experts fear toxic gas could be released should the lava reach wells outside the plant.

Lava has been spewing from multiple fissures around Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano for the past few weeks. Sending local authorities into a panic as they try to figure what to do, the lava flow is now inching closer to a major power plant.

After destroying two dozen homes and displacing numerous residents, Kilauea’s lava flow threatens to enter the Puna Geothermal Venture Plant. Wells around the plant are the most concern. Experts fear once lava enters the wells, poisonous and flammable hydrogen sulfide gas will be released.

“Fissure 6 reactivated last night and has been erupting since around midnight,” said officials with Hawaii County in a statement, as quoted by USA Today. “The flows from Fissure 6 are slowly flowing closer to PGV property.”

Even with the lava slowly moving near the plant, officials say there is no immediate danger but have issued an advisory to nearby residents that an evacuation may be necessary if gas is detected. The situation remains under the close watch by civil defense officials.

While some officials fret over the potential of toxic gas being released from the PGV plant, others are concerned about the threat of laze. As fiery hot lava flows into the cold ocean, a hydrochloric acid steam known as laze forms. As the caustic cloud rises into the air, tiny particles of glass ride along with it.

Laze, a combination of the words “lava” and “haze,” is an irritant to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Anyone with health conditions like asthma or emphysema are particularly affected.

While toxic gas, lava, and laze are bad enough, another environmental phenomenon known as vog threatens the health of residents and visitors. Per an Independent report, vog is a vaporous mix of sulfur dioxide, moisture, and dust. The gas and small particles can cause breathing difficulties when inhaled.

Of the five active volcanoes on Hawaii’s Big Island, Kilauea is by far the most lively. It has been in an almost constant state of eruption since 1983.

Experts expect Kilauea’s current eruption cycle to last for the next several weeks and may intensify before it ends. Since this eruption started on May 3, over 2,000 people have fled the area, one person has been injured, and 40 buildings have been destroyed.