Star Advertiser: LED fixtures in city street lights dangerously bright, Sierra Club says

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The Sierra Club’s Oahu Group on Friday said the LED fixtures the city chose for its approximately 53,500 street lights across Oahu are “bluer” and more harmful than more technologically advanced LEDs now on the market.

“We met with the city over a year ago and advised them to avoid the use of the much bluer 4000K and 3000K lighting,” the Oahu Group of the Sierra Club said in a statement.

Robert Kroning, the city’s director of design and construction, said the city is discussing the concerns with contractor Johnson Controls. When the city solicited proposals for the project in 2016, 2700K lights were not commercially available.

The Oahu group said that the blue light component of the fixtures chosen by the city “has been scientifically proven to decrease night vision, make it more difficult for people to sleep and hurt their health, severely and adversely affect night-flying seabirds and greatly increase the sky brightness to the detriment of astronomy on Hawaii island and sky gazers on Oahu.”

Kevin Jim, an astronomer and physicist who volunteers with the Sierra Club, said Los Angeles is now requiring most new lighting be 2700K after it made the same mistake, he said.

Kroning said the city has learned that the contractor’s manufacturer recently made available 2700K lights. “We are having the contractor examine the new 2700K LED street lights to see if they meet the requirements of the request for proposals in both energy savings and in illumination of our roadways,” he said. “If they do, we may make the change to a 2700K fixture.”

Kroning said he’s comfortable with the 3000K fixtures, which will be used in 90 percent of the lamps “since the blue light component difference between 3000K and 2700K light is quite small.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the conversions Thursday, saying the city does not need to pay any of the $46.6 million in costs upfront and that the lights will pay for themselves within 10 years and then start saving the city about $5 million annually.